German Consumer Confidence Up

Economic upswing and improving job market boost German Consumer Confidence to better-than-expected levels.

BERLIN (AP) - German consumer confidence is rising anew as a solid economic upswing and an improving job market encourage purchases in Europe's biggest economy, according to a survey published Monday.

The GfK research group said its forward-looking consumer climate indicator stands at 8.4 points for July, better than the 8 points forecast by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. In June, consumer confidence stood at 7.4 points.

The monthly survey was marked by a significant increase in an index measuring Germans' propensity to buy, which rose by 13.2 points to break out of negative numbers to 9.1 points.

''The positive mood in respect of the economy and income is increasingly filtering through to the propensity to buy,'' GfK said in its report. That was the fourth consecutive rise in the index since a weak period at the beginning of the year, when Germany increased value-added tax to 19 percent from 16 percent.

''This economic high is attributable in part to psychological factors and the current general optimism ... as well as to economic factors supporting the buoyant mood,'' GfK said.

An index measuring consumers' economic expectations slipped slightly from an all-time high a month earlier, dipping to 69 points from 69.5, but GfK described that change as ''negligible.''

Germany has been emerging over the past two years from a lengthy period of economic stagnation that pushed up unemployment and prompted Germans to tighten their purse strings.

Healthy growth has now filtered through to the job market. Unemployment in May stood at 9.1 percent, with a little more than 3.8 million people out of work - the lowest level since November 2001.

''In the light of the current general climate, it is reasonable to assume that the upswing in the consumer climate will be sustained into the coming months,'' GfK said.

Still, Monday's GfK survey found that Germans' income expectations have slipped after five successive rises. An indicator measuring those expectations fell by 4.9 points to 28.7 - although that was still far ahead of figures from a year earlier.

The report of climbing consumer confidence, based on monthly interviews with some 2,000 consumers, followed slips last week in two other key economic indicators.

The closely watched Ifo index of business confidence posted a larger-than-expected slip in June, but remained close to historic highs.

The more volatile ZEW survey of investor confidence slipped unexpectedly after six months of increases. The ZEW institute said that while the outlook is good, it does not immediately see the economy gaining further momentum.

In a separate report Monday, the Ifo institute raised its forecast for German growth this year, predicting that gross domestic product will expand by 2.6 percent in 2007 and 2.5 percent in 2008.

Next year, ''the economic expansion will enter its advanced phase,'' Ifo said. ''Capital expenditure on equipment will rise again but at a slower pace. Private consumption will expand due to the improved situation on the labor market.''

In April, Ifo and four other institutes forecast 2.4 percent growth both this year and next, following expansion of 2.8 percent in 2006.

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