(Adds details, context, comment from economist)
By Matthias Sobolewski
BERLIN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Germany achieved a balanced federal budget in 2014 for the first time in almost half a century and one year ahead of schedule, two coalition sources familiar with the final version of the budget told Reuters on Monday.
That may mean the government, under pressure from its European partners to spend more on infrastructure and other items to boost weak euro zone growth, has more leeway to raise investments. Berlin has until now been reluctant to heed such calls for fear of jeopardizing the balanced budget goal.
“The good news is that this is not the result of further efforts by the government to consolidate the budget but of the savings from low interest rates and of higher tax revenues,” said Christian Odendahl, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform in London.
“This means that the German budget would allow for more spending,” he said, but added the extra spending was unlikely to be sufficient to make a real difference to the euro zone.
The final budget for 2014 is due to be presented this week. One of the coalition sources said the target had been met earlier than planned thanks to ultra-low interest rates on government debt and increasing tax revenues.
Europe’s largest economy had aimed to achieve a “schwarze Null” — a federal budget in the black — in 2015 but the finance ministry suggested in December that the goal might be achievable in 2014.
In its monthly report in December, the ministry said net new borrowing in 2014 was likely to be less than the planned 6.5 billion euros.
The federal tax take is likely to have increased to around 269 billion euros in 2014 — about 9 billion euros more than in 2013, according to tax estimates published in November.
Interest rates on German government debt are at historic lows as the European Central Bank has cut its main interest rate to near-zero while the euro zone crisis has resulted in many investors seeking out safe havens for their cash. (Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Catherine Evans)