September 21, 2017 / 12:03 AM / a year ago

German economy to grow robustly in third quarter, finance minister says

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German economy weakened at the start of the third quarter after a strong performance in the first half of the year, but indicators suggest its solid growth will continue, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble arrives to attend an European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Europe’s biggest economy is enjoying a consumer-led upswing, propelled by record-high employment, rising real wages and low borrowing costs - conditions that are likely to help Chancellor Angela Merkel win a fourth term in a federal election on Sunday.

The Finance Ministry, controlled by Merkel’s conservatives and their veteran lawmaker Wolfgang Schaeuble, said in its monthly report that the economy lost some momentum at the beginning of the third quarter.

“But recent economic data indicate that the solid upswing will continue also in the third quarter,” the ministry said, adding that business morale remained high and German exporters were expected to benefit from a global economic recovery.

The German economy grew 0.7 percent on the quarter in the first three months of the year and 0.6 percent from April to June, driven by increased household and state spending as well as higher investments in buildings and machinery.

A string of economic data in the past weeks had painted a mixed picture of the economy, with unemployment falling further and the mood among German investors improving. But retail sales, industrial orders and manufacturing output disappointed in July.

The ministry said that macroeconomic fundamentals remained favorable and domestic demand would continue to drive growth, pointing to rising employment and wages.

The economic upturn is boosting tax income as more people join the labor market, shoppers spend and companies can increase their profits.

From January to August, tax revenues of the federal government and the 16 regional states rose 4.1 percent year-on-year, the ministry said. That is slightly more than the projected rise of 3.9 percent for the whole year.

Rising revenue has enabled Merkel’s government to spend more on roads and bridges, faster internet, social housing and integration of refugees, without taking on new debt.

This means Schaeuble can stick to his cherished but internationally criticized goal of a balanced budget — also known as ‘Schwarze Null’ or black zero.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Larry King

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