German industry orders fall again in April

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German industrial manufacturers are witnessing the longest period of decline in new orders since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, official figures by the Federal Statistical Office showed on Thursday.

According to the figures, industrial orders fell by 2.5 percent in April, registering the fourth consecutive monthly decline. The economy ministry on Thursday mainly attributed the disappointing data to weak demand in Germany and the wider eurozone.

Total foreign demand for German industrial products shrank by 0.8 percent in April. Domestic and eurozone orders hereby declined 5.4 percent and 9.9 percent respectively, while orders from the rest of the world rose by 5.4 percent.

At least in part, the dearth of new orders experienced by producers was also seen as a result of growing global insecurity created by the protectionist policies of U.S. President Donald Trump and the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU).

However, the economy ministry noted that it was "difficult to estimate" the precise impact of recent "developments in trade policy" on industrial orders.

Germany is a highly export-oriented economy and is hence widely considered by experts to be a major potential loser of Washington's new "America First" doctrine. Nevertheless, the economy ministry noted that there was no reason for panic yet as the volume of outstanding industrial orders was still at a high level by historical standards.

Broken down by sectors, monthly orders fell by the single biggest margin (36 percent) for products in the category of "other vehicle construction", including ships, trains and airplanes, which are traditionally subject to considerable variance. Once excluded in the Federal Statistical Office's assessment, overall industrial orders in April only fell by a less significant 0.6 percent.

Speaking to Xinhua on Thursday, Thiess Petersen, senior economics expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation, consequently highlighted that, at least for the time being, the German "engine of growth is still running." Petersen argued that falling orders in April most likely owed to a more modest than anticipated expansion of gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany and the eurozone at the start of the 2018.

The Bertelsmann expert warned that whether slower growth proved to merely be a "temporary phenomenon" or not would ultimately hinge on the future development of international trade conflicts sparked by recent policies of President Trump. "An increase in global protectionism would hit the German exporting nation hard and further undermine its current economic momentum," Petersen said. 

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