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An Industrial Crisis Is Brewing in Germany

An Industrial Crisis Is Brewing in Germany

In the darkest days of the 2009 recession, Germany’s industrial output was collapsing at an annual rate of more than 20%. An unfathomable implosion but one that thankfully ended almost as quickly as it started.

Some 10 years on, a crisis is brewing once again in the country’s industrial heartlands. The pain could prove more enduring this time.

So far the problems aren’t nearly as acute as in 2009; industrial production fell by a comparatively modest 4.2% in July. The worry, though, is that demand is being sapped by a mix of both cyclical and longer-lasting structural factors such as the demise of diesel and the shift to electrical vehicles. Trump’s trade wars and Brexit aren’t helping.

Germany’s industrial sector contributes more than one-fifth of GDP and is usually a huge asset. Right now this export engine is pulling the economy down. Signs of distress are everywhere. German manufacturing activity is at a decade low, according to IHS Markit’s purchasing manager’s index. The Ifo Institute estimates that more than 5% of manufacturing companies have cut working hours and about 12% expect to do so during the next three months. German machinery orders declined 9% in the first six months of the year, according to the VDMA association, which represents the country’s engineers. In chemicals and pharmaceuticals, domestic production fell 6.5% in the first half of the year, while domestic car output has fallen 12% this year. Auto exports have dropped 14%.