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Germany

German consumer confidence edges higher again

A closely watched monthly survey has indicated that German consumers look to the next couple of months with bigger confidence. They expect the national economy to grow and their wages to increase.

If opinion polls are anything to go by, German consumer confidence is ticking upwards. That is according to the monthly survey by the GfK research group published on Wednesday.

The Nuremberg-based think tank said its forward-looking confidence indicator stood at 5.9 points for March, slightly up from the 5.8 points logged for the current month, with the figures based on a poll among 2,000 German households.

GfK researchers argued expectations continued to brighten amid forecasts that economic growth in Europe's powerhouse would return in the current quarter, after having taken a steep dive in the final three months of 2012.

Is the worst over?

"If the financial markets remain peaceful this year, consumers should not be unsettled," GfK said in a statement. "It's very likely that consumption will continue to be a major pillar of the economy throughout 2013."

The research group added that optimism was also being fed by a solid job market, with a 7.4-percent jobless rate comparing favorably with the countries most hit by Europe's debt crisis.

"Many people will see their wages increasing this year," Citigroup economist Jürgen Michels said in commenting on the results of the GfK survey. "And inflation is unlikely to rise significantly in Germany."

The latest monthly poll was conducted before Italians went to the polls. "I wonder whether the results would have been different, had consumers known about the inconclusive outcome of the Italian election," Dekabank analyst Andreas Scheuerle told Reuters news agency.

hg/rg   (dpa, Reuters, AP)