Europe's largest economy released its trade figures Monday, reporting its weakest start to a new year since 2009.
The numbers, which analysts are calling disappointingly low, may be a signal that Germany's economy has peaked as sentiment indicators weaken, although from record highs. And they come amid an escalating tit-for-tat tariff battle between the U.S. and China, of whom Germany is likely to be a major casualty. China has announced tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. car exports — and some of the largest auto manufacturing plants and exporters in the States are German.
The new data Monday showed Germany raked in 104.7 billion euros ($128.6 billion) in exports for February, a fall of 3.2 percent on January, although up 2.4 percent on the same month in 2017. Imports slipped by 1.3 percent on the previous month, but increased 4.7 percent year-on-year. Overall, the country's trade surplus widened slightly from 17.3 billion euros in January to 18.4 billion euros in February.
"The entire start to the year 2018 has been a disappointment," Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for Germany and Austria at ING, said in a research note. He attributed some this disappointment to seasonal effects, winter weather and a flu epidemic, but also noted "sound fundamentals" like record high employment, low interest rates, and filled order books as an indicator of positive economic prospects, at least in the short-term.
However, Brzeski added, "If anything, downside risks for the economy have clearly increased in recent weeks."