FILE PHOTO: A construction site is pictured in Berlin, Germany May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
May 23, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – German household spending rose at its strongest pace in eight years, driving a rebound in the first quarter, while a pick up in construction activity and surprisingly solid exports also helped Europe’s largest economy to get back on track.
The Federal Statistics Office on Thursday confirmed preliminary gross domestic product growth of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter and 0.7% year-on-year seasonally adjusted.
Private consumption rose 1.2% on the quarter, which was the biggest increase since 2011, contributing 0.6 percentage points to the expansion.
Investments in construction increased 1.9% on the quarter which resulted in a contribution of 0.2 percentage points.
Despite increased trade tensions and business uncertainty, exports rose more strongly than imports in the first three months of the year which meant that net trade contributed 0.2 percentage points to the overall expansion.
The German economy avoided a technical recession by a whisker at the end of last year after a 0.2% contraction in the third quarter and a stagnation in the fourth.
The growth outlook for the German economy remains clouded, however, by rising trade barriers such as tariffs and business uncertainty linked to Britain’s chaotic departure from the European Union.
The government has slashed its growth forecast to 0.5% this year.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
FILE PHOTO – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo
May 22, 2019
GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran’s youth will witness the demise of Israel and the demise of Israel and American civilization, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday in comments published on his official website.
“You young people should be assured that you will witness the demise of the enemies of humanity, meaning the degenerate American civilization, and the demise of Israel,” Khamenei said in a meeting with students.
He gave no further details.
Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what U.S. officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
Khamenei said last week that there would be no war with the United States.
Separately, Khamenei distanced himself from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in his comments on Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions, saying the accord did not address the Islamic Republic’s missile program and what he saw as their malign influence in the region.
“The way (the nuclear deal) was put into action, I didn’t have much faith (in it),” Khamenei, who is the highest authority in Iran, said. “And we repeatedly told the president and the foreign minister and gave them notice.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been the main advocates of the nuclear deal within Iran’s political system.
Two weeks ago, Iran notified the remaining signatories to the deal – China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom – that it would halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord.
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Susan Thomas)
CEO of Commerzbank AG Martin Zielke and head of the supervisory board Stefan Schmittmann pose during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Wiesbaden, Germany May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski
May 22, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany (Reuters) – Commerzbank may refine its strategy and is still open to mergers following the collapse of talks with its larger rival Deutsche Bank, the lender’s chief executive said on Wednesday.
CEO Martin Zielke told shareholders that the talks with Deutsche “showed where we should possibly sharpen our strategy”.
“We will be able to say more about this in the autumn,” Zielke said at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting.
Earlier this year, Zielke embarked on talks to tie up with Deutsche Bank. But the talks collapsed after six weeks, with the banks citing risks of doing a deal, restructuring costs and capital demands as among the reasons for their decision to walk away.
With Deutsche out of the picture, both Italy’s UniCredit and Dutch ING Groep have expressed interest in Commerzbank, which is Germany’s second-largest listed lender, sources have said.
Zielke, in response to questions from shareholders at the meeting, said that the bank was open to growing “inorganically”, which means through mergers and acquisitions.
He said that he meets regularly with CEOs of competing banks. For example, he has met twice with ING CEO Ralph Hamers over the past year, but there were no concrete offers for merger talks, Zielke said.
Commerzbank, which is still partially state-owned after a bailout during the financial crisis, has been cutting costs and investing in technology.
Profit rose sharply in 2018 from a year earlier but Zielke said profit needed to improve further.
Commerzbank’s supervisory board will discuss the bank’s updated strategy in mid-September, with announcements likely in early October.
(Reporting by Tom Sims and Hans Seidenstuecker; Editing by Michelle Martin and Jane Merriman)
A logo of Thyssenkrupp AG is pictured at the company’s headquarters in Essen, Germany, November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
May 22, 2019
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board on Tuesday said it unanimously approved Chief Executive Guido Kerkhoff’s overhaul strategy, including a plan to list its prized elevators unit, the conglomerate said.
“We have agreed that the executive board will now work out the concrete plans and begin the implementation,” Thyssenkrupp Supervisory Board Chairwoman Martina Merz said in a statement following a meeting of the company’s directors.
“As the Supervisory Board, we are convinced that the Executive Board is on the right track with the new strategy.”
Earlier this month, Thyssenkrupp’s CEO said the steel-to-submarines conglomerate would embark on a new round of restructuring, including exploring a stock market listing for its elevators business.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Edward Taylor)
Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche poses ahead of the Daimler annual shareholder meeting in Berlin, Germany, May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
May 22, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – Daimler’s outgoing chief executive said on Wednesday that all of the luxury carmaker’s costs were under review as he expressed dissatisfaction with the group’s profitability as it invests heavily in electric cars.
“Everything is under scrutiny: fixed and variable costs, material and personnel costs, investment projects, vertical integration and the product range,” Dieter Zetsche said in a statement https://bit.ly/2JWOCn2 ahead of Daimler’s annual general meeting in Berlin.
“Along with external factors, we are now also feeling the financial effects of the company’s transformation,” said Zetsche, who is set to hand control to 49-year-old Swede Ola Kaellenius on Wednesday.
Kaellenius said earlier this month that Daimler will cut development costs for new Mercedes-Benz cars by a significant amount by 2025 and will intensify alliances with rivals as a way to improve margins.
Kaellenius is working out details of the cost savings program.
Daimler is pushing to develop a raft of electric and hybrid cars so it can boast a carbon neutral car fleet by 2039.
The Stuttgart-based group said on Wednesday that it was aiming to limit the price of new car technologies for customers.
“To do so, we have to cut costs and increase efficiency throughout the company,” Zetsche said.
He said Daimler, which confirmed its full-year targets, had a moderate start to the year.
“This was expected, but it doesn’t make it any better. In particular, we cannot and will not be satisfied with the current level of profitability.”
Zetsche, an engineer nicknamed “Dr. Z” who joined the company in 1976, is due to become chairman of the supervisory board in 2021, following a standard two-year cooling off period.
Daimler’s shareholders are also set to approve a new corporate structure to combine the car and van businesses as well as the truck and bus businesses in two independent entities.
The new corporate structure would allow the carmaker greater flexibility to list individual divisions.
(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Thomas Seythal; Editing by Michelle Martin)
FILE PHOTO: German Education Minister Anja Karliczek attends a press conference about the German AI (Artificial Intelligence) strategy before the federal cabinet’s meeting in Potsdam, Germany November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
May 22, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet backed a draft law on Wednesday with annual incentives worth 1.25 billion euros aimed at supporting corporate research and development and boosting investments in cutting-edge technologies, officials said.
The government’s decision to introduce the subsidy scheme will help to strengthen private-sector investment in innovation at a time when growth in Europe’s largest economy is slowing, Science Minister Anja Karliczek told Reuters.
Karliczek added that nearly all member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) were already supporting private research activities with tax breaks and that Germany had to catch up quickly now.
The draft law from Finance Minister Olaf Scholz envisages incentives worth 625 million euros from the federal government and a further 625 million euros from the 16 regional state governments.
Companies doing basic research or industrial development can apply for a bonus of up to 500,000 euros per year from 2020, with the first payouts planned for 2021 and with incentives not limited to small- and medium-sized firms.
The law needs to be passed by both the Bundestag lower house and the Bundesrat upper house which represents the interests of the 16 regional governments in Germany’s federal republic.
Merkel’s coalition parties do not have a majority in the Bundesrat which means they need support from opposition parties such as the ecologist Greens, the business-friendly Free Democrats or the anti-capitalist The Left.
Lawmakers from the Greens have signaled support, increasing the chances that parliament will pass the law later this year.
Germany’s private sector, which is highly dependent on the large, export-oriented car industry, is at risk of losing ground to more innovative rivals from the United States and China in areas such as electric mobility and autonomous driving.
The Federation of German Industry (BDI) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have urged Berlin to provide a better framework and more incentives for corporate research and development to guarantee prosperity and jobs in the next decade.
BDI Managing Director Joachim Lang welcomed the cabinet’s decision, but said there was room for improvement.
“The total sum must grow in the long term so that the incentives and overall effects on the economy are bigger,” Lang said.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Toby Chopra)
FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defence systems during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
May 22, 2019
By Orhan Coskun
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s defense minister said it was preparing for potential U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, even while he said there was some improvement in talks with the United States over buying F-35 fighter jets.
Turkey and the United States have been at odds on several fronts including Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400s, which cannot be integrated into NATO systems. Washington says it would jeopardize Turkey’s role in building Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, which it says would be compromised by S-400s.
While Washington has warned that Ankara faced sanctions under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) if it presses on with the deal, Turkey has said it expected U.S. President Donald Trump to protect it.
Speaking to reporters late on Tuesday, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was fulfilling its responsibilities in the F-35 project and expected the program to continue as planned. He said buying the S-400s was only meant to meet Turkey’s defense needs and posed no threats.
“We are doing whatever normal bilateral agreements mandate. Though there are some issues from time to time, we are pleased that there has been no sharp turn until now… Turkey is also making preparations for the potential implementation of CAATSA sanctions,” he said.
“In our talks with the United States, we see a general easing and rapprochement on issues including the east of the Euphrates, F-35s and Patriots.”
Turkey’s lira has been sliding in part on concerns over the U.S. sanctions, which would hit an economy already in recession after a currency crisis last year. Among its other disputes with Washington is strategy in Syria east of the Euphrates River, where the United States is allied with Kurdish forces that Turkey views as foes.
Akar said linking the S-400s purchase with that of the F-35s is “another hurdle” and noted that nine NATO partners have a stake.
“There is no clause anywhere in the F-35 agreement saying one will be excluded from the partnership for buying S-400s,” he said. “Turkey has paid $1.2 billion. We also produced the parts ordered from us on time. What more can we do as a partner?”
In trying to persuade Turkey to give up the Russian missiles, the United States has offered to sell its rival Raytheon Co. Patriot missile defense systems, which Akar said Ankara was evaluating. He said Turkish and U.S. officials were working on price, technology transfer and joint production issues on the latest U.S. offer in late March.
The minister also said conceptual work on the SAMP-T defense systems with the Franco-Italian EUROSAM consortium were expected to be completed in October. He said EUROSAM had offered to install a SAMP-T battery in Turkey and that scouting work would be carried out.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans, Jonathan Spicer and Peter Graff)
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Staff
May 22, 2019
(Reuters) – European shares edged lower on Wednesday as concerns over a protracted U.S.-China trade war again worried investors, while a drop in the pound propped up London’s blue-chip index.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1% by 0708 GMT with Germany’s DAX, traditionally sensitive to trade issues, down 0.2%.
A report that the United States is considering limits on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision added to the list of tensions between the two sides ahead of a summit later this month.
The STOXX 600 is down about 3% so far this month, on course for its first monthly decline this year as the tensions threaten to hurt global growth.
Auto shares slipped 0.4% and basic-resources stocks, among those first in the firing line, retreated 0.3%.
Britain’s exporter-heavy FTSE 100, however, outperformed its peers and rose 0.4%, bolstered by Brexit-driven falls in the pound, which boost the foreign revenues of its internationally-focussed firms.
Marks & Spencer shares dropped more than 5% after the retailer reported its third straight decline in full-year profit, showing the pain of its latest attempt at a multi-year turnaround.
Shares of asset manager Intermediate Capital Group jumped to the top of STOXX 600 after posting full-year results.
(Reporting by Medha Singh and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)
FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
May 22, 2019
By Chris Kahn
(Reuters) – Half of all Americans believe that the United States will go to war with Iran “within the next few years,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll released on Tuesday amid increased tensions between the two countries.
While Americans are more concerned about Iran as a security threat to the United States now than they were last year, few would be in favor of a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian military. But if Iran attacked U.S. military forces first, four out of five believed the United States should respond militarily in a full or limited way, the May 17-20 poll showed.
Historically tense relations between Washington and Tehran worsened in May after U.S. President Donald Trump hardened his anti-Iran stance and restored all sanctions on Iranian oil exports following his decision a year ago to pull the United States out of a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran.
The United States moved an aircraft carrier and forces to the Gulf region in response to intelligence that Iran may be plotting against U.S. interests, an assertion Iran denies.
Nearly half – 49% – of all Americans disapprove of how Republican Trump is handling relations with Iran, the poll found, with 31% saying they strongly disapprove. Overall, 39% approve of Trump’s policy.
The survey showed that 51% of adults felt that the United States and Iran would go to war within the next few years, up 8 percentage points from a similar poll published last June. In this year’s poll, Democrats and Republicans were both more likely to see Iran as a threat and to say war was likely.
Iran was characterized by 53% of adults in the United States as either a “serious” or “imminent” threat, up 6 percentage points from a similar poll from last July. In comparison, 58% of Americans characterized North Korea as a threat and 51% characterized Russia as a threat.
Despite their concerns, 60% of Americans said the United States should not conduct a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian military, while 12% advocate for striking first.
If Iran attacked, however, 79% said that the U.S. military should retaliate: 40% favored a limited response with airstrikes, while 39% favored a full invasion.
Both the United States and Iran have said they do not want war, although there have been bellicose statements from both.
Despite Trump’s decision to withdraw, the poll showed 61% of Americans still supported the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers to curb Iran’s potential pathway to a nuclear bomb in return for sanctions relief. Republicans also favored the accord negotiated by the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama, with a little more than half saying they supported it.
Gulf allies and U.S. government officials have said they believe Iran-backed groups are responsible for a series of attacks on shipping and pipelines in the Gulf in the last week.
Trump has said he would like to negotiate with the Islamic Republic’s leaders. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected talks on Tuesday and has said “economic war” is being waged against Iran.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,007 adults, including 377 Democrats and 313 Republicans, and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.
To see a copy of the full poll results and methodology, click here: https://tmsnrt.rs/2WUpjFT
(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)