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Business

German Consumers Unnerved by Gas Price Spurt

German consumer confidence has taken a knock from a spurt in motor-fuel prices, according to the monthly GfK index issued Tuesday, May 27, by the country's leading private market-research company.

Pumping gas

High gas prices could be making the economy look worse than it is

The sentiment data contrasted with first-quarter gross domestic product statistics issued Tuesday by the Federal Statistics Office showed the biggest quarterly growth in Germany in 12 years, with a 1.5-percent jump compared with real GDP in the last quarter of 2007.

A month ago, the GfK index leaped from 4.7 for April to 5.6 for May, but on Tuesday the Nuremberg-based company said the index would fall back to 4.9 for June as shoppers worried about price increases.

The results, based on a survey of 2,000 consumers, also indicated declining public expectations about the German economy, with that index at 13.4, its lowest level since December 2006.

Respondents were also more pessimistic about their own incomes. GfK analysts said consumers were more aware of rising prices than of the boost to their incomes ushered in by several major labor contracts in recent months which are expected to be widely imitated.

Consumer opinion diverges from federal data

The national economic-output data from federal officials in Wiesbaden, which combines previous monthly data and finalizes the March growth figure, suggests Germany has suffered only a glancing blow from the slowdown in the US economy and soaring commodities prices.

Federal Statistics Office analysts said the growth had been driven by construction and corporate investment rather than by consumer spending, which had however improved slightly.

German exports remained strong, despite the high foreign exchange value of the euro, but foreign trade was no longer a net contributor to GDP growth because of Germany's soaring import bills.

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