German industrial production, exports weak in December

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A train leaves the main train station after the sun set in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Photo: AP)

German industrial production dropped sharply in December and exports barely edged higher, official data showed Friday, rounding off a poor year for manufacturing in Europe’s biggest economy.

Production was down 3.5% compared with the previous month, the Economy Ministry said. It added that production over the full fourth quarter was down 1.9%, led by sharper drops in the machinery and auto industries.

Those figures came on top of a 2.1% month-on-month decline in factory orders reported Thursday.

Also Friday, Germany’s Federal Statistical Office reported that exports were up 0.1% on the month in December after dropping 2.2% the previous month. Imports were down 0.7%.

That meant that, for the full year, exports rose just 0.8% — compared with 3% the previous year and 6.2% in 2017. Imports were up 1.4%, down from 5.6% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.

Germany’s economy has grown for 10 consecutive years but last year’s 0.6% growth was the weakest since 2013. Fourth-quarter figures haven’t yet been released, but officials estimated last month that the economy grew slightly compared with the previous quarter.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski said that would now be “a positive surprise.”

“The German manufacturing sector remains caught between cyclical weakness, on the back of the trade conflict and weaker global growth, and structural weakness, on the back of disruption in the automotive sector and too little investment,” he wrote in a research note.