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Balance of payments

The balance of payments records all economic transactions between residents and non-residents within a given time period and thus shows a country’s complex external trade links with the rest of the world.

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 [+] Figure: 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 Plus" (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 and International Investment Position statistical sources and methods - B.o.p. and i.i.p. book", which contains the methods used to compile the balance of payments and international investment position for each of the EU member states.

The Deutsche Bundesbank provides a standardized quality report for the balance of payments and international investment position statistics which is published within the statistical quality assurance framework concerning statistics underlying the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP) indicators.

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)

Additional information

Note: Revisions to Statistical Supplement 3 "Balance of Payments statistics", September 2018

New data from secondary sources have been included as part of the regular revisions to the international investment position, resulting in corrections to the balance of payments statistics. The new inclusions are BIS data on deposits of German non-banks at banks abroad (2018 Q1) and data on German external liabilities arising from euro banknote issuance (2018 Q1 and Q2).


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