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Eichel Fears Weak Consumer Demand May Hinder Growth

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel has admitted that he is worried about sluggish consumer demand, which he said could act as a brake on growth. In an interview with the Sunday edition of the German Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Eichel said that while exports, which are the cornerstone of Germany's economy, were holding up well despite the strength of the euro against the dollar, domestic demand was proving problematic for the government. Data published by the Federal Statistics Office showed that Germany's exports continued to rise in the early part of the year -- €55.7 billion ($68 billion) worth of goods in January, up from €54.5 billion the month before. Meanwhile, one of Germany's leading economic research institutes, DIW, said last week that it was reducing its forecast for growth of German gross domestic product (GDP) for the first three months of this year to just 0.1 percent from its previous prediction of 0.4 percent.