Market commentary: A golden period for Germany, markets trade mixed

Germany’s record low unemployment is persuading Europe’s nation of savers to open their wallets and live a little. The country’s rising retail sales jumped 3.6 percent in February, a third straight monthly increase, coming after 2014 marked the biggest leap in 18 years. The gains are thanks to the lowest unemployment rate since reunification, currently 6.4 percent, the drop in oil prices and rising salaries.

Rising consumption in Europe’s largest economy is propping up the euro area’s recovery as other members struggle with near- record high unemployment. Germany, which has prioritized balancing its budget, has been criticized by some European partners and the U.S. for not spending more to boost growth.

Germans’ willingness to spend is at the highest level since 2006 as they shift slowly away from their long-held preference to hoard away their money. The average German household had saved 9.8 percent of income at the end of 2014, down from a 1991 peak of 13 percent. German car sales in February reached their highest level in three years, as purchases jumped 6.6 percent.

European Central Bank policies have helped feed the trend with ECB President Mario Draghi cutting interest rates and introducing a 1.1 trillion- euro quantitative easing program, there’s little incentive to stash money in the bank.

The spending spree has its limits, with most Germans still making sure they have enough for a rainy day. Their savings rates remain far above the 5.9 percent of income for British households and 4.9 percent for Americans. 

The drop in the oil price is putting more cash in consumers’ pockets, while real wages, which take inflation into account, increased 1.6 percent in Germany last year, the most since data collection started in 2008. Much of that money ends up in retailers’ coffers.

The current environment and strength of the economy has translated into an excellent performance on the German based financial markets for both equities and bonds. The DAX has increased a whopping 22.35% since the beginning of the year while German government bond yields are at record lows.

Market data

Asian stocks halted their longest slump since February. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose for the first time in six days as Japanese shares rebounded. Markets in Japan, South Korea and mainland China will open Friday while most other Asian, U.S. and European venues will be shut for holidays.

Traders are focused on Friday’s monthly payrolls report after the Federal Reserve said the timing of its first interest- rate increase since 2006 will depend on strong economic data.

Data on initial jobless claims is due Thursday after weaker- than-estimated reports on hiring and manufacturing fuelled speculation that the U.S. economy is slowing. US markets traded lower yesterday, with the Dow dropping 0.44% and the NASDAQ also dropping 0.42%.

European equity markets are largely flat on a particularly mute session. Declines in auto-related companies offset gains in retailers and telecommunications companies. Daimler AG dragged carmakers down, falling 2.4 percent.

Marks & Spencer Group Plc led retailers higher with a 5.5 percent gain after saying sales at its general-merchandise unit rose for the first time since 2011. Royal KPN NV climbed 1.3 percent after saying it received interest from several parties about the acquisition of its Belgian mobile-phone business Base.

The European Central Bank publishes the minutes of its March 4-5 meeting today, and investors will be looking for further indications of the central bank’s monetary policy thinking.

Markets in Denmark, Iceland and Norway are shut today, while Sweden is open for a half day. All European markets are closed for holidays Friday and Monday.

This article was issued by Simon Psaila Trader/Analyst at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, www.cc.com.mt . The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri & Co. Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.

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