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Balance of payments

The German balance of payments is a detailed statistical statement that summarises the economic transactions conducted between residents and non-residents over a given period. In addition, it constitutes an important part of the consolidated balances of payments of the European Monetary Union and the European Union.

Publication details

Components of the current account

Components of the financial account

The Deutsche Bundesbank produces the monthly balance of payments for the Federal Republic of Germany and publishes the results in a press release. A more detailed technical and regional breakdown is presented in the Statistical Supplement 3 "Balance of payments statistics" around 5-6 weeks after the end of the reporting month. The actual publication date for the monthly balance of payments is determined by the latest deadline for publication and is announced in the release schedule no later than Friday of the previous week.

When the balance of payments data of the reporting month are published, the corresponding data for the previous month are revised. Annual revisions for the previous reporting year and the three preceding years are made in the March Monthly Report. In the context of these retrospective monthly and annual revisions, particular consideration is given to late and correction reports, as well as to more recent information from secondary sources and preliminary estimates are either revised or replaced. Methodological adjustments, including those for earlier periods, are carried out at this point.

General information about publication dates and the revision policy as well as further Deutsche Bundesbank articles relating to balance of payments can be found in the right hand column under Publications.

The balance of payment statistics are published in the following formats:

  • Time series database
  • Press release
  • Monthly Report
  • Statistical Supplement 3 – Balance of payments statistics
  • Special statistical publications

As part of the initiative pursued by international organisations to exchange data between institutions (Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange; SDMX), a global data structure definition (Data Structure Definition for Balance of Payments) has been introduced. Deutsche Bundesbank time series on the balance of payments and the international investment position will be published using the aforementioned harmonised time series keys SDMX.

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Methodological notes

In the balance of payments, the economic transactions of a national economy are systematically aggregated with the rest of the world for a specific period of time. It is not therefore a balance sheet in the sense of a point-in-time statement of assets and liabilities, but rather a flow account. The balance of payments comprises not only transactions associated with cross-border payments but also operations that do not lead to a (direct) payment.

The balance of payments is broken down into the following sub-accounts

  • Current account: goods, services, primary income and secondary income. These sub-accounts encompass figures in both original and seasonally adjusted and calendar-adjusted form.
  • Capital account
  • Financial account: direct investment, portfolio investment, financial derivatives and employee stock options, other investment, reserve assets.
  • Errors and omissions: balance of statistically unclassifiable transactions

Balance of payments

Commencing with the data published in the reporting month of May 2014, the German balance of payments statistics comply with the methodological provisions set out in the IMF’s 6th Balance of Payments Manual (BPM6) with respect to concepts, definitions and the presentation of results. More detailed information on the impact of the changeover from BPM5 to BPM6 resulting from the methodological changes can be obtained from the article entitled "Changes in the methodology and classifications of the balance of payments and the international investment position" in the Bundesbank's Monthly Report for June 2014.

The balance of payments statistics are an important statistical gauge of the external sector within the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS Plus). Metadata describing the methodological, conceptual and institutional framework of the German balance of payments can be viewed on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) provided by the IMF.

The IMF uses its ROSC data (Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes) to document the extent to which countries meet specific internationally recognised statistical standards. The ROSC data set for Germany was created in 2005 and presents, among other things, the results of the balance of payments review.

Further methodological details can be gleaned from the European Union Balance of Payments / International Investment Position Statistical Methods (BOP Book), which contains the methods used to compile the balance of payments and international investment position for each of the EU member states.

Additional information on methodological adjustments to the balance of payments statistics over time can be found in selected Bundesbank Monthly Report articles (see right hand column under Publications).

  • Changes in the methodology and classifications of the balance of payments and the international investment position
    Excerpt from June 2014 Monthly Report
  • German balance of payments in 2011
    Excerpt from March 2012 Monthly Report (The pronounced rise and fall in Germany's current account surplus vis-à-vis its euro-area partner countries between 1999 and 2011; Income from and valuation effects of direct investment; Current account, financial account and TARGET2)
  • German balance of payments in 2007
    Excerpt from March 2008 Monthly Report (Certificates and warrants in the balance of payments)
  • German balance of payments in 2004
    Excerpt from March 2005 Monthly Report (Recording cross-border cash transactions in the balance of payments; changeover to the accruals principle of accounting for interest income)
  • German balance of payments in 2002
    Excerpt from March 2003 Monthly Report (Recording foreign travel in the balance of payments statistics in 2001)
  • German balance of payments in 1998
    Excerpt from March 1999 Monthly Report (Further adjustments to the revised IMF guidelines)
  • Changes in the methodology of the balance of payments – March 1995 Monthly Report (Changes in the scheme and layout of the balance of payments as a result of revised international requirements)

Data sources

The collection of the data required to compile the balance of payments does not follow a standardised procedure, but instead is organised pragmatically in Germany as a modular system. External sector reporting is the core component, which as a general rule requires all resident banks, enterprises, individuals, and public authorities participating in external transactions to report their transactions with non-residents to the Deutsche Bundesbank. The legal basis of these reporting requirements are given in section 11 (2) of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act (Außenwirtschaftsgesetz) together with section 67 ff of the Foreign Trade and Payments Regulation (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung).

Data from other sources are used as supplementary components, the most significant of which are:

  • Foreign trade statistics of the Federal Statistical Office
  • Household survey on travel expenses abroad
  • External position of banks and non-banks and foreign direct investment stock statistics
  • Bundesbank’s internal accounting system
  • Other national and international statistics for reconciliation and as a basis for estimates

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