German economy forecast to slow sharply

A group of leading German economic research institutes slashed their growth forecast Thursday, warning that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, it could get even worse

BERLIN -- A group of leading German economic research institutes slashed their growth forecast for the country on Thursday, warning that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, it could get even worse.

The new assessment is in line with that issued last month by the German government's panel of independent economic advisers, and lower than the government's own 1 percent prediction.

"This has now become less likely, but is still possible," they said. "However, if a no-deal Brexit occurs, economic growth this year and the next is likely to be significantly lower than indicated in this forecast."

More than the political risks, the report concluded the economic slump in the second half of 2018 was "primarily due to obstacles to production in industry."

"The long-term upswing of the German economy has come to an end," says Oliver Holtemoeller, vice president of the IWH institute.

Data released by the Federal Statistical Office on Thursday underlined those concerns, showing industrial orders dropped 4.2 percent in February, following a revised 2.1 percent drop in January from December, according to seasonally and calendar adjusted figures.

Domestic orders dropped 1.6 percent in February, while foreign orders fell 6 percent. Of the foreign orders, those from inside the eurozone dropped 2.9 percent and those outside dropped 7.9 percent.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski said it had seemed that a trend of decreasing orders had ended at the end of 2018, but the "sharp drop in new orders clearly undermines latest tentative signs of a rebound in global activity in the first quarter."

"Maybe February was simply too early to feel the rebound — this is the positive reading," Brzeski said in a research note. "The negative reading is that the German industry should prepare for more bad news."