Germany’s export-led economy and the consequences for its banks

In the thread below, Benjamin Braun explains Germany’s political economy. More specifically, he and Richard Deeg studied the interaction between the financial and non financial corporate (NFC) sectors.

Let me try to summarize the argument.

The German NFC sector has high profits (1) and runs a trade surplus (2).

(1) enables companies to finance their own investments. They don’t need to borrow money from banks.

(2) leads to an inflow of reserves and deposits at banks. As a result, German banks lend to foreign entities.

This seems a sensible story.

However, I don’t agree with the conclusion:

First of all, I highly doubt any policymakers really want to help German banks. If that were the case, the monstrosity of publicly owned, unprofitable banks would have been cleaned up by now.

But even if German politicians cared, it’s not clear that stronger unions or higher wages would be more than a drop in a bucket.

A higher demand for credit would have an immediate positive impact on German banks. And there is a lot of room for growth.

Home ownership in Germany is low compared to non-German speaking countries, as you can see in this picture from Eurostat.

Stimulating home ownership would boost the demand for mortgages.

More investment by the government, as called for by industry and labor unions, would also increase the domestic supply of assets for banks if it’s funded by bonds instead of taxes.

If Angela Merkel wants some more advice, she can leave a comment 🙂

The Weimar hyperinflation revisited

In a 2017 blog post, I wondered why Germans remember the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic era.

Nils Redeker, Lukas Haffert and Tobias Rommel have recently published a paper about this very question. In Misremembering Weimar: unpacking the historic roots of Germany’s monetary policy discourse, they show that

most Germans do not know that Germany’s interwar period was shaped by two separate crises, but rather see them as being one and the same.


Looking back into a skewed version of their own history, many Germans conclude that mass unemployment and high inflation are just two sides of the same coin. What makes this worse is that this misconception is especially prevalent among well-educated and politically interested Germans. Hence, the group of people following the ECB’s monetary policy most closely is also the group most likely to draw the wrong lessons from German history. But public thinking about Weimar economic history is not just substantially flawed. We can also show that the skewed memory of the Weimar Republic still affects the way in which at least some Germans think about monetary policy today.

Update 15/02/2020: The following comment on a FT Alphaville article about German financial assets corroborates Redeker et al‘s thesis:

The commenter is probably well-educated, or he wouldn’t read Alphaville. But he makes two mistakes. First of all, the hyperinflation did not occur in the 1930s. Secondly, there is a logical inconsistency. If Germans fear hyperinflation, why do they hold 40% of their assets in currency and deposits? That doesn’t make any sense, as a new hyperinflation would make these assets worthless.