Mar 15, 2019

Germany is Europe's most economically dangerous country

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

While Brexit has captured the world's attention, the bigger story is happening in Germany.

Driving the news: Germany is headed almost certainly for a significant slowdown in growth and very possibly into a recession. Which route the country takes has major implications for Europe and the rest of the world.

After recording zero growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, narrowly avoiding back-to-back quarters of economic contraction, one of Germany’s most prestigious research institutes Thursday cut its expectations for German growth this year by almost half.

The Munich-based Ifo Institute also said the pace of employment growth is decelerating. That followed data showing the country's all important manufacturing sector had significantly slowed, badly undershooting economists' expectations.

  • That's a major problem for Germany because exports make up about half of its GDP.

"Germany's economy is really exposed to any shifts in the international market," George Friedman, founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, tells Axios. "You have a problem with the largest economy in Europe not really being in control of its own economy. So in that sense it's the most dangerous country in Europe because it's the most important country and incredibly vulnerable."

The big picture: As the driving economic and political force in the euro zone, and the world's third largest growth engine, Germany is expected to help pull its neighbors out of an economic malaise, but right now it's reflecting the broader weakness.

The 28-member bloc is facing widespread growth declines (Italy is in recession, Sweden just avoided one) and political instability from Brexit and growing anti-euro populism.

  • "At this point the German economy is more the victim of problems in the global economy than the cause," says Jeromin Zettelmeyer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

However, Zettelmeyer believes Germany still has some lifelines because its domestic economy remains strong and the ECB has positioned itself to help give Europe a boost. Germany could also pass fiscal stimulus, if lawmakers can agree on a bill.

What to watch: "If you see services slowing, consumer confidence going down significantly and payroll numbers falling, a softening of the labor market, one should start worrying more," Zettelmeyer tells Axios. "The other thing to watch is how sustained is the decline in industrial production? If we see another decline in industrial production next month I would really be more worried."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 660,706 — Total deaths: 30,652 — Total recoveries: 139,304.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 121,478 — Total deaths: 2,026 — Total recoveries: 1,072.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Deaths surge in Italy and Spain

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has since Friday killed 889 more people in Italy and 832 others in Spain, which announced all non-essential workplaces would close for two weeks.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Saturday in the U.S., which leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 121,000, per John Hopkins. Governments around the globe are trying to curb the medical and financial fallout of COVID-19, as infections surge across Europe and the U.S.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 mins ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus deaths top 2,000

Nurses in masks, goggles, gloves, and protective gowns at Penn State Health St. Joseph conduct drive-thru coronavirus testing in Bern Township, Pennsylvania on March 27. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

More than 2,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus in the U.S. as of Saturday, per data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Why it matters: Recorded deaths in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 two days ago. The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy.

Go deeper: Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut