German statistics point to deepening recession

THE GERMAN economy has lurched sharply into recession, shrinking by 1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, the Federal Statistics Office announced yesterday.

At the same time Hoesch-Krupp, the country's combined steel operation, said it planned to shed 4,500 jobs by mid-1994 as a result of restructuring.

The statistics office said the sharp drop in western Germany's GDP in the fourth quarter highlighted the recessionary trend since the second quarter, when output droped by 0.5 per cent. Two consecutive quarters of declining national output is the most common definition of a recession.

However, the strong 1.5 per cent growth in the first quarter means that GDP is still about 1 per cent above its level in the fourth quarter of 1991. For the calendar year on average, German GDP was 1.5 per cent higher in 1992 than in 1991.

Contributing powerfully to the fall over the year to the fourth quarter was a 4.6 per cent decline in corporate investment, sharpest drop since 1984, the office said.

Falling investment and exports sliced almost 1.5 per cent off GDP in the fourth quarter. Exports expanded by a mere 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, after 2.5 per cent in the third quarter. Meanwhile, imports rose by 4.7 per cent after a 1 per cent rise in the third quarter.

'Although the average GDP in 1992 rose a real 1.5 per cent, the economic weakening accelerated during the year,' Gunter Rexrodt, the economics minister, said yesterday.

The strong slowdown in the west has been reflected in the increase in unemployment. The number of registered jobless rose in the final quarter of 1992 by 15 per cent, or 244,000, compared with the previous year.

The western German economy is expected to decline by between 1 and 2 per cent this year.

The economy in the east is forecast to grow between 5 and 7 per cent, largely boosted by massive public subsidies. Mr Rexrodt warned that the upward revision did not indicate a self-propelling upswing in east Germany. The east's economy expanded by 6.8 per cent in 1992 instead of 6.1 per cent originally estimated, it added.

Hoesch-Krupp confirmed that it is to close its Rheinhausen steel mill at Duisburg. The board said that the combined operation expects to lose DM500m in 1993.

Hoesch Stahl, one of the group's two steel companies, said it was planning to cut 2,400 jobs in its Dortmund steel works. A feasibility study has shown that the combined requirement for crude steel is 540,000 tonnes a month compared with a current capacity of 725,000 tonnes.

(Graph omitted)

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