Acquisition of financial assets and external financing in Germany in the fourth quarter of 2014 Results of the financial accounts by sector
In the fourth quarter of 2014, the financial assets of households rose by just over €69 billion (ie 1.4%) on the quarter, climbing to a figure of €5,072 billion. Together with the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets which totalled just over €40.5 billion, valuation gains in the amount of around €28.5 billion contributed to this increase in assets. With regard to types of investment, the trend towards liquid and low-risk assets, which has been evident for some time now, continued into the fourth quarter on an intensified scale. Households' liabilities also increased, albeit to a lesser degree than before, with the result that net financial assets rose by €66 billion (ie 1.9%) in the reporting period to stand at €3,488 billion. Net financial assets of non-financial corporations recorded a marked decrease of €65 billion (ie 4%) in the quarter under review owing to steep valuation increases in liabilities. These stood at -€1,665 billion at the end of 2014.
Households continue to invest in liquid and low-risk assets: rise in transferable deposits and claims on insurance corporations
In the final quarter of 2014, the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets by households totalled just over €40.5 billion on balance and was thus somewhat up on the quarter. A large chunk of this amount (€34.5 billion) was invested in bank deposits (including currency), with almost all of it flowing into the particularly liquid category of transferable deposits (including currency). By contrast, fixed-term and savings deposits (including savings certificates) were broadly bypassed on balance. Households' preference for highly liquid forms of investment – a phenomenon which has long been observed in the low-interest-rate environment – thus remained very pronounced in the quarter under review. Moreover, claims on insurance corporations and pension funds, which were stepped up by €19 billion net, were also a significant factor in the acquisition of financial assets by households. The successive lowering of the guaranteed return on this form of investment, which is typically regarded as low risk, indicates – together with the significance of bank deposits in the acquisition of financial assets – households' ongoing high level of risk aversion.
This is borne out by their continued reluctance to invest in the capital markets. During the reporting period there was a relative increase in investment in securities; compared with other forms of investment, however, this upturn was of minimal importance for the acquisition of financial assets in this sector. Purchases of mutual funds shares in particular, including mixed and bond-based and funds, also rose once again. Overall, at €6.5 billion in net terms, this asset category attracted the same volume of interest as in the previous quarter. Likewise, there were net acquisitions of shares and other equity, with a heightened emphasis on paper issued by domestic issuers. Amid positive bond price developments in the equity markets, inflows, which amounted to just under €4 billion, were much higher than one quarter previously. Once more, there were net sales of debt securities, a trend now evident for more than three years in succession, whereby the fall in volume was again higher than average at €6 billion. Outflows were primarily recorded for debt securities issued by German corporations, but also for general government securities. Amongst other reasons, this is likely to have been driven by the further decline in yields for this form of investment.
The transaction-related rise in financial assets by just over €40.5 billion was accompanied by valuation gains to the tune of around €28.5 billion, which were primarily attributable to shares. Overall, households' financial assets thus grew by €69 billion (ie 1.4%) to €5,072 billion at the end of 2014. Coming to a total of €209 billion in 2014, this sector's financial assets therefore were up on the year by 4.3%.
Households' external financing in the fourth quarter of 2014 was lower than in the third. On balance, loans (including other liabilities) of just over €4 billion were taken up, mainly for the purpose of house purchase, with domestic banks almost acting as the sole lenders. Households' total liabilities consequently went up by 0.2% to €1,584 billion. In combination with the rise in financial assets during the period under review, this resulted in a substantial increase in net financial assets by €66 billion (ie 1.9%) to €3,488 billion. The debt ratio – defined as total liabilities as a percentage of annualised nominal gross domestic product – narrowed by a total of 0.3 percentage point to 54.6% in the course of 2014.
Non-financial corporations: marked increase in financial assets due to valuation gains and moderate rise in liabilities
During the fourth quarter of 2014, the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets by non-financial corporations recorded outflows of €28 billion and was, therefore, well below the previous level. They primarily reduced their investment in bank deposits (including currency) and inmutual funds shares, down in net terms by €9 billion and €10.5 billion respectively. By contrast, positive stimuli were observed in the area of lending, which rose by just under €10.5 billion. Other non-financial corporations in Germany were the key borrowing parties here.
At €22 billion, the volume of external financing in the period under review was higher than in the previous quarter. Positive contributions arose, above all, from funds raised via equity issuance (€14 billion), including shares. In this context, foreign lenders dominated the field, while German financial corporations scaled back their activity. Furthermore, debt securities were issued to the tune of just under €4.5 billion net, once again with much of the necessary funding coming from abroad. This contrasted with a relatively moderate take-up of loans, worth just over €2.5 billion on balance. In this case, however, the aggregated figure masks more substantial differences among the various lending sectors. Borrowing from domestic non-banks, especially from other non-financial corporations, rose, on balance, by €13 billion while borrowing from the other sectors fell.
Overall, taking valuation changes into account (which markedly influenced both financial assets and liabilities), non-financial corporations' net financial assets therefore shrank by a total amount of €65 billion (ie 4%) to -€1,665 billion in the final quarter of 2014. This means that over the course of 2014, net financial assets fell by around €61 billion in total. The debt ratio – defined as the sum of issued debt securities, loans and pension provisions as a percentage of annualised gross domestic product – stood at 63.6% at the end of 2014 and was thus down on the year by one percentage point.
Owing to interim data revisions, the figures stated in this press release are not directly comparable with those shown in earlier press releases.