German business confidence falls back in April

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) –


Confidence among German business leaders fell back in April, a closely-watched survey showed Wednesday, wilting signs of green shoots visible in a tentative increase last month.

The Munich-based Ifo institute said its confidence index fell 0.5 points to 99.2, undoing half the first increase in six months booked in March.

"Companies are less happy with their present business situation, and the slight optimism for the months ahead from March has dissipated," Ifo chief Clemens Fuest commented.

The figures reflected a continued split in the German economy, with judgements of both the present situation and expectations for the coming months grimmer among manufacturing firms.

Germany's manufacturers are more reliant on exports, leaving them directly exposed to upsets in global trade and slowdowns in emerging markets like China.

Meanwhile services firms reported a slightly gloomier view of the present situation than in March, mingled with increased optimism for the future.

Strong domestic fundamentals, including unemployment at its lowest since reunification in 1990, have kept the service sector humming even as manufacturers have suffered.

Overall, "the downward trend in business sentiment persists. External factors -- namely international protectionism and Brexit -- should continue to weigh on it," said economist Uwe Berkert of LBBW bank.

However, "if the risk factors fall away, positive surprises would be possible again," he added.