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德国增长引擎“熄火”,欧元区第二季度经济深陷停滞

John Kell,Geoffrey Smith 2014年08月18日

欧元区的这种表现与美国形成了强烈反差,美国第二季度真实国内GDP经季节性调整后的年增长率为4%。

    今年第二季度,在德国和意大利经济表现欠佳的主要影响下,欧元区18个国家的经济增长集体陷入停滞。

    据欧盟统计局(Eurostat)称,欧元区第二季度GDP走势连续疲软,增长速度与第一季度0.2%的增幅相比再度放缓。经季节性因素调整后,欧元区GDP与去年同期相比仅微增0.7%。

    欧元区的这种表现与美国形成了强烈反差,美国第二季度真实国内GDP经季节性调整后的年增长率为4%。

    这些最新数据表明,欧元区债务和失业率高企的问题仍较为突出,同时金融业也因欧元危机的冲击而尚未恢复元气。咨询机构G+ economics的首席经济学家莱娜•克米列娃表示,欧元区正在经历三重衰退,并指出各主要指标均表明自六月以来增长动力不断削弱,尤其是商业界的信心已受到乌克兰危机的重创。

    这些数据也将再次引发政府间争论,一方是德国政府和欧洲央行,他们认为欧元区经济不振的根源是各国没能对陈旧的公共部门和福利国家开展大刀阔斧的改革,而另一方则是法国和意大利政府,他们宣称欧元区需求之所以受到抑制,是因为各国着力削减赤字,同时汇率过高。上周意大利就已宣布,今年上半年该国再度陷入经济衰退。

    就在法国刚刚宣布第二季度再次陷入零增长后,法国财政部长迈克尔•萨班就表示放弃政府原定的今年预算赤字仅占GDP 3.8%的目标,因为全年经济增长1%的目标已成空中楼阁。他表示,法国已“完全掌控”了支出,且不会通过增加税收的方式来填补预算漏洞。

    萨班在《世界报》(Le Monde)的一篇专栏文章中写道:“欧洲央行……必须根据其要求采取所有可能的措施,消除通缩风险,使欧元价值重回良好水平。”

    法国在德国和其他成员国身上花了大笔政治资本,从欧元区争取了为期两年的宽限期,旨在将其预算赤字拉回占GDP 3%的水平。而上周四西班牙发表的声明则将进一步考验德国总理默克尔的决心和耐心。现在默克尔需要获得法国的支持,继续施压意大利和希腊实施改革。

    但市场在下注默克尔和欧洲央行会很快作出反应。由于投资者确信欧洲央行会采取类似美国、英国和日本央行的“量化宽松”政策开始买入政府债券,致使政府债券的收益率跌至历史新低。比如德国10年期的政府债券收益率已跌至1.00%的历史新低,而意大利政府债券收益率也跌至2.67%。而股市价格则普遍上涨,欧洲斯托克600指数上涨了0.3%。欧元则小幅上涨了0.25美分至1.3403美元。

    贝伦贝格银行(Berenberg Bank)的经济学家克里斯蒂安•舒尔茨表示:“今年下半年如果欧洲央行大部分人认为有必要采取进一步的刺激政策,德国令人失望的经济表现就应会促使德国央行不再反对此举。”

    欧盟统计局并未就GDP预计增长情况展开分析,它目前只是一个初步预测。而在德国,这一数字则受到一个特定情况的拖累,即德国去年反常的暖冬使更多基建工程在今年第一季度完工,基建产出增长了0.7%。这使第二季度的增长相形见绌。但德国统计局则悲观地指出,投资和出口偏弱也对经济增长造成了不利影响。同比去年,在经过季节性和日历因素调整后,德国今年GDP增长了1.2%。

    The 18 nations that make up the eurozonefailed to generate economic growth in the second quarter of the year, mostly due to a poor showing in Germany and Italy.

    Gross domestic product was flat in the second quarter on a sequential basis, softening from the first quarter’s 0.2% increase, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Compared with the same quarter a year ago, seasonally adjusted GDP rose 0.7% in the eurozone.

    The euro zone’s performance is in stark comparison to the results coming out of the U.S., where real gross domestic product jumped 4% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the second quarter.

    The latest data highlight the currency bloc’s continuing problems with high levels of debt and unemployment, and with a financial sector weakened by the euro crisis. Lena Komileva, chief economist with G+ economics, said the Eurozone is on course for a triple-dip recession, pointing to the fact that leading indicators suggest momentum has weakened further since June, not least because the crisis in Ukraine has battered business confidence.

    The data also prepare the ground for another clash between those–such as the German government and the European Central Bank–who think that the root cause of the Eurozone’s weakness is the failure to overhaul outdated public sectors and welfare states, and those such as the French and Italian governments, who claim that demand is being depressed by a fixation with deficit reduction and an exchange rate that is too high. Italy had already announced last week that it slipped back into recession in the first half of this year.

    Immediately after France reported its second straight quarter of zero growth, Finance Minister Michel Sapin abandoned the government’s aim of keeping the budget deficit to only 3.8% of GDP this year, because the growth target of 1% was no longer realistic. He said France had spending “completely under control” and wouldn’t raise taxes to plug any holes in the budget.

    “The ECB…must exhaust its possibilities, in line with its mandate, to make the risk of deflation disappear and to bring the euro back to a more favorable level,” Sapin wrote in an op-ed piece in the newspaper Le Monde.

    France has already spent a lot of political capital with Germany and others in getting a two-year grace period from Eurozone to bring its budget deficit down to 3% of GDP. Sapin’s announcements Thursday will further test the resolve and patience of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who needs French support to keep up the pressure for reform on countries such as Italy and Greece.

    Markets bet on Merkel and the ECB being the first to blink, though. Yields on government bonds fell to new record lows as traders bet that the ECB would start buying bonds in a form of ‘quantitative easing’ akin to U.S., U.K. and Japanese ones. The German 10-year yield fell to a new record low of 1.00%, while Italy’s fell to 2.67%. Stocks were also broadly higher, the Euro Stoxx 600 index rising 0.3%. The euro itself rose a quarter of a cent to $1.3403.

    “Germany’s disappointing performance should weaken Bundesbank opposition to any further stimulus steps should the ECB majority decide they are necessary later this year,” said Berenberg Bank economist Christian Schulz.

    Eurostat gave no breakdown of its GDP estimate, which is only preliminary for now. In Germany, the figures were depressed by the fact that an extraordinarily mild winter allowed more of the year’s construction work to be done in the first quarter, when output rose 0.7%. That made the second look weak by comparison. But statistics office Destatis noted more ominously that weak investment and exports also weighed on the economy. In year-on-year terms, GDP was up 1.2%, adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects.

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