FRANKFURT (BLOOMBERG) - German factory orders slumped in May in the latest sign that global trade uncertainty is turning Europe's temporary slowdown into a more serious downturn.
The economy ministry on Friday (July 5) reported huge declines in export orders and investment goods in May, just days after a survey showed factory activity shrank for a sixth month in June. The continued gloom is increasing concern at the European Central Bank, and a growing number of economists are predicting it will add more monetary stimulus as soon as this month.
While orders data can be volatile, there's little doubt the numbers are disappointing. The 2.2 per cent overall drop on the month was far worse than the 0.2 per cent fall predicted by economists in a Bloomberg survey. The euro weakened, and ING said the report "wraps up a week to forget for the German economy."
Germany's troubles, some of which are linked to the car industry, have weighed on the euro region. Governing Council member Olli Rehn summed up the mood on Thursday, saying saying that growth has "slowed significantly" and it's no longer possible to consider the downturn as temporary.
On Friday, Commerzbank changed its forecast on ECB stimulus, predicting a 20 basis-point cut in the deposit rate this month, larger than previously anticipated.
The outlook for the economy -- and anticipation of another round of monetary policy easing - has pushed bond yields lower. Germany's 10-year has fallen below the ECB's -0.4 per cent deposit rate for the first time, while both Spain and France are also enjoying record-low borrowing costs.
"The eagerly expected economic recovery in Germany is still nowhere to be seen," said Commerzbank's Peter Dixon and Jorg Kramer. "In addition to the weakness of the auto sector, this is attributable to weak demand from China, where the extensive stimulus measures have not yet had any effect."
The orders report showed domestic orders rose 0.7 per cent on the month, while exports dropped 4.3 per cent. Investment goods orders slid 2.8 per cent.