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Manufactured goods and industry: a symbol of German decline

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German industrial power and quality levels became a national symbol in the latter part of the 20th century, and to some extent the lifeboat of post-war reconstruction. Even throughout the industrial rise of Asia at the end of the century, the German island remained sanctuarize from the competitive attacks of Eastern developing countries. But several German industries have been increasingly struggling in the past decade and gasping for air. Is Germany at the end of its prosperity cycle, for having rested on its laurels?

Germany, along with its wartime Japanese ally, impressed the world with its rise from its ashes in the latter half of the 20th century. Starting with the Marshall plan quickly followed by self-standing growth, Germany speedily re-built its industrial capacity, and its reputation for top-notch quality. As soon as in the 1960s, German brands invaded the global market with their sturdy reputation preceding them: if the product said “Made in Germany” then the customer could feel sure there was nothing better on the market. At the end of the century, a large share of the top global engineering segment was German: BMW, Bosch, Rheinmetall, Merck, the list is endless. Economic historian Werner Abelshauer describes [1] how the label “made in Germany” became a symbol of quality: “The label “Made in Germany” ultimately developed into a sign of quality, though it took a while.” But the era during which Germany levitated above the rest of the industrial world is coming to an end. While Germany remained unharmed by Asian competition for longer than its neighbors, it is now fighting on a level field with all other manufacturers in the field, and worse: it’s not doing all that well. Economic reporter Chris Papadopoullos placed [2] the start of the decline during the year 2015: “Total production, which includes construction, manufacturing and mining, dipped 1.2 per cent in August compared with July, German statistical office Destatis said. The production of capital goods fell 2.1 per cent while consumer goods dipped 0.4 per cent. Construction and energy output also posted declines “.

Of course, the Volkswagen scandal caused a major dent in the image of industrial Germany. Consulting group ALVA published an extensive study of the post-scandal consequences on the image of Volkswagen and German quality altogether, and wrote [3]: “After the emissions scandal revelations, we can see a very different picture, with all Advocacy drivers having moved into negative territory to a greater or lesser extent. This is indicative of a reverse halo effect in which a negative emotional response to a company due to an erosion of trust spills over and clouds rational judgement of all of its traits.” Until then, German car manufacturers had been above suspicion, thanks to their reputation for industrial quality and business performance: when one is the best, there is no need to cheat. Through the fraudulent emissions revelations, Volkswagen, one of Germany’s flagships, showed that “Made in Germany” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and that they had flown too high on borrowed wings. The scandal shed doubt over other German flagships in its wake, as reported [4] by automotive journalist James Mills: “German media allege that US authorities have discovered that Daimler, parent of Mercedes, developed software for its diesel-powered vehicles that would shut down vital emissions equipment after driving just a short distance. Daimler is reported to have come up with programs that would shut down certain functions of the selective catalytic reduction filter after just 16g/km of NOx is admitted.” And the damage extended beyond the automobile world, into the whole industry.

Of course, if the problem were limited to the automobile world, Germany could survive on the others. But the slipping in industrial standards, the resulting loss of performance, and finally the need to resort to unsavory business practices to survive, seems to have contaminated all fields of the German industrial apparatus. German shipbuilder TKMS recently illustrated the downfall: after decades of occupying high grounds on the submarine market, the engineering firm is facing such a severe string of problems that it is facing being sold off entirely and scrapped from the national heritage. After losing a major submarine contract in Australia, it delivered a few corvettes to the German Navy, which simply refused them on the dock, due to quality standards being overstepped. Wall Street Journal William Wilkes reported [5]: “Germany’s naval brass in 2005 dreamed up a warship that could ferry marines into combat anywhere in the world, go up against enemy ships and stay away from home ports for two years with a crew half the size of its predecessor’s. First delivered for sea trials in 2016 after a series of delays, the 7,000-ton Baden-Württemberg F125 frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: It doesn’t really work.” Germany’s submarine fleet, also built by the same shipbuilder, is currently completely out of order [6]. In desperate need for new contracts, it resorted to bribing officials, resulting in a political and economic quagmire in Israel. In an attempt to secure a submarine purchasing contract in Tel-Aviv, TKMS allegedly transferred over 10 million dollars through shell companies to a top government Israeli official. News Site Haaretz [7] reports: “At least ten high-powered individuals have been identified as involved in the scandal, including very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is the focus of a police investigation, which is probing possible wrongdoing involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp’s local representative.” For weathered investors, this time in which German manufacturers need to resort to cheating to make up for their slipping industrial standards is something completely new, and in some ways an earthquake. As a result, investments are scarce for start-ups [8], as well as for established businesses [9].

Germany’s downfall in the industrial world isn’t taken lightly by political forces, and the economic problem is turning into a political one, with worker unions stepping up their criticism of management, and politicians scrambling to stop the nosedive. Angela Merkel has been urgently addressing the problem, but so far too little or no avail. “Angela Merkel champions Industry 4.0, urging investment in new technology. German business isn’t heeding the call”, says Politico [10]. Unlike Angela Merkel, many in the country haven’t figured out that Germany had slipped from one industrial model to another: initially known for the superb quality of its products, it was caught up quickly by its direct competitors: United Kingdom, France, Japan and the United States in particular. The core of German’s added value today lies mainly in the machine-tools and high-tech subsystems of German equipment-makers. But as a whole, Germany no longer has the capacity to integrate large and complex systems such as aircrafts, frigates or new-generation submarines.

[1] https://www.dw.com/en/125-years-of-made-in-germany/a-16188583
[2] http://www.cityam.com/226018/german-industrial-production-sees-steep-decline
[3] http://www.alva-group.com/en/reputation-damage-vw-emissions-scandal/
[4] https://www.driving.co.uk/news/emissions-scandal-vw-mercedes-cheat-diesel-tests/
[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/german-engineering-yields-new-warship-that-isnt-fit-for-sea-1515753000
[6] https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2017/10/20/all-of-germanys-submarines-are-currently-down/
[7] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-the-israeli-submarine-scandal-what-we-know-1.5626626
[8] https://global.handelsblatt.com/companies/german-startups-drying-up-without-risk-ready-investors-863686
[9]https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-investment/big-investors-cautious-on-german-public-private-partnership-plan-idUSL5N0XK45Q20150423
[10]https://www.politico.eu/article/why-europes-largest-economy-resists-new-industrial-revolution-factories-of-the-future-special-report/

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Economy

How to Trade Shares for Beginners

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Although expectations had been modest for 2019, the stock markets around the world had been active in 2019 and the positive returns seen so far have exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Supported by easy monetary policies around the world, as well as by positive economic expectations for 2020, stocks continue to move, which makes a significant number of people deciding to start investing. Since stock trading is much harder than most of them think, let’s see some of the most important things beginners must consider in order to accelerate their learning curve.

Stick with the most liquid shares

Finding “the next big thing” is one of the illusions that seduces most of the beginners. They spend a significant amount of time looking for those companies that will have huge returns over the next months of years. Not even the most-skilled stock traders are able to do that, so why do you think you will?

Instead of looking for those shares, stick with the companies that already have a leading position in the industry. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Boeing are just some of the names that are popular at the time of writing, and looking at their performance in the long run, so far, they’ve managed to impress.

Study educational materials

Beginners fail to understand that share trading is a skill-based endeavor and study is one of the most important parts of the process. Study as many educational materials as you can and gain as much knowledge as possible because you’ll definitely need it. This guide and other similar ones will introduce you to share trading and help you understand the basic concepts. Remember this axiom: “Around 90% of the traders lose 90% of their capital in their first 90 days of trading”. Education is one of the main factors why beginners stumble into the same mistakes over and over again. You don’t want to be in the same position as most of the people who don’t learn and spend time to sharpen their skills.

Build a portfolio

Closely linked to our first tip, building a portfolio of uncorrelated assets is one of the most important things to consider, if you want to limit the damages of your mistakes. No matter how good you are, in trading, you won’t make money all the time. Diversification will help you minimize the effects of some losing trades. Don’t concentrate all the risk in a single stock and instead pick at least three or four names that might perform positively in the near-term.

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Economy

Saudi Arabia halves oil production: How long will it last, and will it affect oil prices?

Saudi Arabia announces it will halt 50% of its oil production. This Vestle news article will explore the possible financial impact.

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saudi halves oil production

Since recent drone airstrikes crippled Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil processing facility in mid-September, the country – the world’s No. 1 exporter of oil* – has been forced to close half the plant while reconstruction takes place. While no casualties resulted from the attack, the real harm is finally coming to light, as the impact on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry is becoming clearer. This Vestle news article explores this important topic.

Aramco estimates that the closure will affect almost 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day, which amounts to roughly 5% of the world’s daily oil production. To help you put that into perspective, consider that Saudi Arabia produced 9.85 million barrels a day in August 2019. And it’s not just oil production that will suffer. Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman also indicated that the closure has forced a temporary halt in gas production, limiting the supply of ethane and natural gas by 50% as well.

One particular detail that those with an eye on the financial markets might find interesting is that the attacks took place at a time when Saudi Arabia continues to progress toward taking Saudi Aramco public – a first for the kingdom’s global-reach energy sector. How much money are we talking? As the world’s most profitable oil company, it’s estimated to be valued at around $1.5 trillion.**

Will this affect oil prices?

The short answer, according to some people, is probably yes. With Saudi oil output expected to dip below 50%, the outages present “an extreme risk situation for oil,” according to Paul Sankey, managing director for Mizuho Securities. However, measures have already been put into place. Depending on how long it takes for Saudi Arabia to recover the damaged facility, OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is aiming to suspend production cuts to help temper the impact of the ongoing crisis. On the trading side, the International Energy Agency is expected to release strategic oil stocks, and US President Donald Trump has already authorized the release of oil from the US petroleum reserve.***

In the weeks just after the drone strikes, the price of WTI Oil on the Vestle platform showed a 13% increase, followed by a 12% decrease over the following two weeks. Also during that time, Bloomberg reported that the spread between WTI and Brent widened to 37%, which could be an indication that the oil spike might affect global prices more than other oil giants, such as the United States. Furthermore, a representative from Goldman Sachs estimates that the global benchmark for Brent Oil could rise above $75 a barrel if the plant shutdown lasts for more than six weeks.****

Will it get any worse?

Some people fear the Aramco incident represents the potential for a broader regional conflict that could escalate to the point that it affects Gulf oil production as a whole. CFRA Research oil analyst Steward Glickman said, “Oil prices are now likely to bake in a much higher geopolitical risk premium than had been absent in much of 2019.” With the recent bombing in June of oil tankers in the Gulf of Hormuz not so distant, it’s no wonder some analysts like Glickman like are raising their eyebrows. ***

Considering all the different factors that play into this situation—the global, financial and geopolitical—there’s no telling what kind of turns it will take. The only thing to do is keep an eye on the news for the political side of it, and financial sites like Vestle to see what kind of ripples such an event is making in the financial markets.

Oil prices and the financial markets

Volatility such as that recently experienced by both WTI Oil and Brent Oil can present both opportunities and risks for informed traders, such as those who invest in Contracts for Difference or CFDs, which essentially means trading on the price movement of a particular instrument without owning the underlying asset. At Vestle, you’ll find hundreds of tradable CFD instruments, from commodities like oil and natural gas to popular stocks, indices, ETFs and crypto. And thanks to a selection of trading signals, market indicators and our economic calendar, access to important financial info for global situations like this is right at your fingertips.

 Sources

*https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/12/investing/us-oil-exports-saudi-arabia/index.html

**https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/14/saudi-arabia-is-shutting-down-half-of-its-oil-production-after-drone-attack-wsj-says.html

***https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/09/16/saudi-arabia-oil-attack/2341141001/

****https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-15/oil-prices-jump-19-after-attack-cuts-saudi-arabian-supplies

Vestle (formerly known as ‘iFOREX’) is the trading name of iCFD Limited, licensed and regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) under license # 143/11. The materials contained on this document have been created in cooperation with Vestle and should not in any way be construed, either explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, as investment advice, recommendation or suggestion of an investment strategy with respect to a financial instrument, in any manner whatsoever. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 83.7% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Any indication of past performance or simulated past performance included in this document is not a reliable indicator of future results. Full disclaimer: https://www.vestle.com/legal/analysis-disclaimer.html

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Economy

Fears of a 2019 European Economic Slowdown Loom

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Although the spotlight is on the trade war between the United States and China, one aspect that is currently ignored by the media is represented by signs of weakness in the European continent.

Germany slows down

After posting a -0.3% GDP contraction in the third quarter of 2018, the economic indicators released from Germany in 2019 cannot support a positive economic picture. The manufacturing sectors continue to show signs of weakening, with the Markit PMI Composite now at 51.6, down from 52.3.

Industrial Production had been contraction by 1.9% in November, and both imports and exports had been down by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively. DAX trading had also suggested there is growing concerns among investors and the main German stock index peaked out in July 2018, being now down by 15%.

Germany relies mostly on exports, being the third exporter in the world, only surpassed by the United States and China. That is why the weakness we see in Germany is actually a symptom of what’s happening in other European countries as well.

Italy and France not too encouraging

The new populist government in Italy, formed by La Lega and The Five Star Movement faced a serious challenge to get the EU’s approval for the 2019 budget, as the already high debt-to-GDP ratio (currently at 131.8%) raises concerns on whether the country will be able to meet its debt obligations in the future.

There are also serious concerns about the banking sector, which despite mergers and acquisitions, and huge capital available from the ECB, were unable to solve their problems which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. The future of Italy is very uncertain, and analysts predict that the new government will not be able to meet their economic promises, given that we are at the end of a business cycle.

Speaking of France, the problems are social at the present time. President Macron was unable to stop the “Yellow Vests” protests, despite promises to increase the minimum wage and the overall standard of living for the very poor. France’s debt-to-GDP ratio currently stands at 97%, but given the latest promises, there are concerns whether the country will manage to keep the budget deficit below 3% in 2019, as the European treaties demand.

Although there’s a single currency in Europe, in terms of fiscal policy things were very fragmented, which is why the economic recovery had been very slow and the reason why investors predict Europe will face the greatest challenges to solve its economic, political, and social problems.

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