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Europe has pneumonia; Germany's catching a cold

Economic data suggests that Germany is slowly succumbing to the euro crisis and could even fall back into recession later this year. A drop in exports, essential to German economic success, is to blame, analysts say.

Germany's economy grew 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, even with many eurozone partners in recession. However, German exports, too, have begun to falter, threatening to bring the economy as a whole to a near standstill in the second quarter, analysts said.

Following the 3.9 percent increase calculated for May by Destatis, the national statistics office, exports fell 1.5 percent in June, primarily because of fewer takers in the other 16 countries that make up the eurozone, according to the latest data. Germany is the world's third largest exporter, behind China and the United States.

Imports, a barometer of domestic demand, were down, too, falling by 2.9 percent. Factory orders fell by 1.7 percent in June, wiping out the modest increase seen the previous month, and industrial output declined by 0.9 percent.

New car registrations - a key gauge of demand in one of the most important industrial sectors - fell sharply last month, retail sales are also in decline, and unemployment is on the rise again, which could hurt consumer spending.

Additionally, the international debt rating agency Moody's recently took the first step toward stripping Germany of its coveted top triple-A credit in view of the eurozone woes. By contrast, the rival agencies Standard & Poor's and Fitch both maintained their top AAA credit rating for Germany given the country's strong fundamentals and outlook.

mkg/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)