Germany Posts Record Current-Account Surplus in March

By Nina Adam Features Dow Jones Newswires

Germany posted a record current-account surplus in March, a development that is likely to intensify international criticism of its economic policies for depending too heavily on exports to drive growth, and being too reluctant to invest at home.

Continue Reading Below

Germany's current-account surplus -- the gap between what it earns from and what it spends in overseas markets -- came in at EUR30.2 billion ($33 billion) in March, the Destatis statistics office said Tuesday, referring to data that weren't adjusted for seasonal swings. By comparison, it was EUR29.1 billion in March 2016.

That marks the highest monthly surplus since records began after the country's unification in 1991, according to Germany's central bank.

Germany has come under attack from the Trump administration for having an artificially weak currency that inflates its trade surplus. In a visit to Washington last month, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the euro was weak because of the European Central bank's stimulus programs, rather than any action of the German government.

Most German economists forecast a slight reduction in the country's big foreign surplus over the medium term, because of strengthening domestic investment and rising imports. Germany's current account surplus is expected to ease to 7.3% of gross domestic product in 2018 from 8.3% of GDP in 2016, according to Germany's government.

But a surplus of around 7% of GDP would be still high by international standards. The U.S. Treasury regards a surplus of more than 3% of GDP as a potential warning sign when it assesses the exchange-rate policies of major trade partners in its biannual currency report. The European Commission regards surpluses larger than 6% of GDP as excessive in its assessment of macroeconomic imbalances.

Continue Reading Below

Destatis on Tuesday said in a separate publication that industrial output in Germany declined 0.4% in March from the previous month, adjusted for seasonal swings and calendar effects. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal forecast a 0.8% fall after two straight monthly gains.

Destatis also revised its production estimates for the previous months. As a consequence, the increases in German industrial output in January and February were smaller than previously reported.

But most private-sector economists stuck to their first-quarter growth forecasts, despite the revisions. Andreas Rees, UniCredit's chief German economist, forecasts that Germany's GDP grew at a quarterly clip of "at least 0.6%," or 2.5% in annualized terms, propelled by strong construction output and rising exports. Destatis is due to publish first-quarter GDP estimates on Friday.

Write to Nina Adam at nina.adam@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 09, 2017 12:14 ET (16:14 GMT)