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Talking Point

In Talking Point we present our take on current affairs and developments in the worlds of business, financial markets and politics.

160 (101-110)
December 17, 2015
Even after yesterday’s Fed rate hike – the first in nine years – the central banks will continue to generously provide the global economy with liquidity in 2016. Global growth looks set to remain below the average and uneven in 2016, at 3.3% (2015: 3.1%). With oil prices normalising somewhat – the oil price decline in 2015 probably contributed ¼ - ½ of a pp to global growth – and wage inflation moderate – with the possible exception of the US, where wage growth might finally pick up considerably in view of almost full employment – household consumption will again probably be the most important growth engine. Despite extremely low interest rates, credit-driven exuberance – which, by the way, was one of the reasons for the global economic and financial crisis in the middle of the past decade – seems unlikely in 2016. [more]
November 26, 2015
Roughly 150 countries have submitted their national climate protection commitments in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. While these commitments will probably not suffice to meet the 2°C target, related assessments are very favourable nonetheless. Obviously, the bottom-up approach, that is to say the voluntary national climate protection commitments, promises greater progress than the globally coordinated negotiated solution targeted at past UN climate conferences. There is an awareness that the current proposals have shortcomings as regards the 2°C target, but there are hopes that the individual countries will aim for more ambitious targets over the next few years. Sentiment is thus swinging between optimism and realism. Considering the growing demand for energy, the international community is clearly only just beginning to encounter the real challenges of climate protection. [more]
November 19, 2015
In the German manufacturing sector real net fixed assets in 2013 were 0.8% lower than in 2000. Looking at the average, however, masks the fact that only four out of 19 manufacturing sectors expanded their capital stock compared with 2000. The major importance of the automotive industry is striking. Its net fixed capital formation exceeded that of all other manufacturing sectors combined between 1995 and 2006 and has done so since 2009. The auto industry boosted its real net fixed asset in Germany between 2000 and 2013 by nearly 38%. In the energy-intensive sectors, by contrast, the capital stock in Germany continues to shrink, a trend that has been ongoing for years. If economic policy conditions in Germany were to deteriorate in future, we would expect manufacturing companies to invest even more heavily abroad. [more]
November 6, 2015
Africa is drawing a variety of investors in search of natural resources and fast-growing consumer markets. They are eager to benefit from some of the highest economic growth rates in the world – as two-thirds of the countries in the continent will grow at over 5% over the next 5 years – and favourable demographics. Africa’s fast-growing, very young and increasingly urban population is currently estimated at 1.2 bn and set to exceed 4 bn by 2100, when around 40% of the global population will be living in Africa, based on projections from the UN. As the EU and China remain Africa’s main trade and investment partners and President Obama has given momentum to the US-Africa partnership, India’s involvement with Africa has been growing steadily. It is set to intensify further, based on the synergies of needs and interests. [more]
October 19, 2015
Contrary to what some critics say, traditional banks would be well advised to start using digital and algorithm-based data analysis instruments now. In future, this will be the only way they can offer their customers personalised financial services and recommendations and continually optimise their internal processes. Should they hesitate, however, the technology-driven, non-bank market newcomers will continue to extend their information lead and in time begin to offer more financial services (also outside the retail banking segment) that are easy to standardise and automate. The latter would further intensify cut-throat competition in the financial industry and could reduce traditional banks in the case of some financial services to pure-play infrastructure providers with declining customer contact. The introduction of so-called recommendation algorithms should be accompanied by the mandatory consent of the customer and transparent communication on how they function. [more]
October 7, 2015
It will take many years to reduce the demand overhang in the housing market if there is not a huge jump in building activity. This harbours the risk that the current phase of prices returning to normal could first lead to overshooting and end in a market correction. This scenario comes with high economic costs. These could be avoided by improving depreciation conditions for newbuild housing in Germany's large cities and metropolitan regions. [more]
September 25, 2015
Continental drift is slow, takes place almost imperceptibly and ends up having dramatic effects in the long run. In this, it is very similar to demographic change. Let us begin with a few facts. The world’s population is set to grow from 7.3 bn today to more than 9.7 bn by 2050. By comparison, the world’s population was a mere 2.5 bn in 1950. The regional (continental) demographic balance has been shifting for quite some time. In 1950, four of the ten largest countries were European (Germany, Italy, USSR, UK). Today, only Russia, ironically the country with the most adverse demographics, ranks among the top-10. In 1950, the big European four made up 10% of the world’s population. This figure has dropped to 5% today and will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. The populations of Africa and Asia will continue to increase significantly – and dramatically so in Africa – over the next few decades (chart). Admittedly, the aggregate increase hides significant intra-regional differences (e.g. East versus South Asia). [more]
September 17, 2015
The healthcare sector uses advanced digital equipment that is supposed to accelerate medical progress and at the same time ensure economic efficiency. However, the gaps that exist are extremely worrying. In many highly developed advanced economies, and especially in Germany, there are already signs of the coming challenges connected with predicted population ageing and the associated shortage of doctors and the pressure on costs in the healthcare system. Here, technological progress in all its facets, from teleconsulting right through to 3D bioprinting, can dampen the increase in healthcare costs without adversely affecting quality. However, before this potential for boosting macroeconomic efficiency can be tapped there are economic, legal and societal obstacles that need to be surmounted (with regard to data protection, remuneration systems, education and network expansion, for example). The first steps in the right direction have already been taken – albeit with extreme caution and circumspection in some of these cases. In this respect it can certainly help to take a look at the industrial sector where digital technology is already making inroads under the “Industry 4.0” moniker. [more]
September 4, 2015
Free trade stimulates economic activity in all the signatory countries. The free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea is a relatively recent example providing evidence of this fact. In H1 2015, German goods exports to South Korea were up by more than 50% on the level before the agreement came into force in July 2011; by contrast, total German exports increased by merely 13% in the same period. True, German imports from South Korea fell during this period. However, this was due to two sector-specific one-off effects. Stripping out these effects, the imports rose at an above-average pace. The positive economic stimuli should also be a strong argument in support of the current TTIP negotiations. [more]