Retailing, leather goods, shoes…German brands are flourishing in unexpected places. Birkenstocks sandals, which seem headed to becoming the must-have item for the summer of 2014, are the latest trend in a broader movement towards reshaping “Made in Germany”.
Increasingly present on European shelves, everyday consumer products with relatively low added have gained in popularity and are a far cry from the heavy industrial goods, manufacturing equipment and upscale household appliances that have forged Germany’s industrial fabric. This is particularly interesting given markets’ recent infatuation with exotic emerging countries.
The Federal Reserve has finally yielded to a combination of market pressure and the macroeconomic data of the past few months. From January onward, the U.S. central bank will be cutting the pace of its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion—from $85 billion at present to $75 billion. While that still qualifies as significant life support, the overriding message is that monetary policy will soon be on its way back to normal. So a previously dreaded change of course is now being greeted as good news by the markets. The Dow Jones responded positively to the Fed’s announcement, as did the dollar.
But the tapering process in the cards will necessarily affect expectations about the target interest rate. And since the Fed has maintained its goal of a more extensive policy shift as soon as the unemployment rate drops below 6.5 percent, long-term yields are even more likely to continue upward. This leads to the big question of whether the U.S. economy can cope with a further increase in those yields.
Like all crises, the present one provides a fertile breeding ground for dogmatic, cookie-cutter statements and clichés that don’t always square with reality. So perhaps the best way to avoid making disastrous decisions on the momentous issues of today is to take a good, hard look at our past. This view was what prompted us to publish the following series of charts, which sum up twenty years of comparative economic history in France and Germany.
Growth, consumption, employment, real estate, debt, demographics, and foreign trade are the themes we have covered here, in the hope of offering the reader greater insight into the forces at work in the euro area’s two leading economies.