Acquisition of financial assets and external financing in Germany in the fourth quarter of 2015 Results of the financial accounts by sector

As at the end of December 2015, households' financial assets amounted to €5,318 billion; this figure was €105 billion (or 2.0%) higher than at the end of the third quarter. This sharp rise in asset holdings was attributable to substantial valuation gains of around €62 billion on financial assets – in particular, equities and investment fund shares were the biggest winners – and the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets to the tune of just over €43 billion. The trend towards liquid and low-risk assets, which has prevailed for some time now, continued, though it was accompanied by significant investment in shares and other equity. At the same time, households' liabilities rose by only around €7 billion, which meant that their net financial assets increased to €3,697 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, after falling in the preceding two quarters. At just over €97 billion (or 2.7%), this was above-average growth. Net financial assets of non-financial corporations, meanwhile, dropped by around €55 billion (or 3.8%) in the quarter under review due, amongst other things, to marked increases in the valuation of liabilities. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, net financial assets therefore totalled minus €1,508 billion. 

Households: increase in capital market exposure as net inflows into bank deposits remain high

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets by households totalled approximately €43 billion on balance and was thus slightly up on the quarter. Of these funds, around three-quarters were invested in bank deposits (including currency). Although, at approximately €31 billion, the acquisition of deposits was more pronounced in the quarter under review than in the preceding quarter, they still fell short of the prior-year figure. The particularly liquid category of transferable deposits (including currency) accounted for virtually all inflows, while fixed-term deposits remained broadly unchanged and savings deposits (including savings certificates) once again saw net outflows. Households' preference for highly liquid deposits – an investment pattern that has been observed for some time now given the low-interest-rate environment – was therefore observed once again, though it was somewhat less pronounced than in 2014. Claims on insurance corporations and pension funds were likewise stepped up again by just under €19 billion; however, the role that this form of investment played in the acquisition of financial assets by households was also slightly smaller on the year. As these claims, especially the bank deposits, are deemed relatively low-risk, the fact that they remain very significant with respect to the acquisition of financial assets suggests that households are still averse to risk. That said, compared with previous years, their level of aversion appears to have diminished somewhat over the course of 2015. 

This is also evident from households' comparatively high exposure on the capital markets. For example, households once again purchased a significant amount of shares and other equity, amounting to just under €7 billion on balance. As well as investing in listed shares of domestic corporations, they also again acquired a comparatively percentage of shares in foreign corporations. Investment fund shares also recorded considerable inflows of just under €8 billion in net terms, that were once again primarily invested in equity funds. By contrast, households were once again net sellers of debt securities, as has now been the case for more than four consecutive years. Moreover, outflows were slightly up on the third quarter at just over €3 billion. All things considered, the significance of securities in households' acquisition of financial assets thus remained at the already comparatively high level recorded in the preceding quarter. This significant increase in capital market exposure over the course of 2015 points towards greater yield awareness among households. 

Even greater than the transaction-related increase in financial assets over the period under review were the valuation gains on financial asset holdings, which reached a volume of around €62 billion. In a stock market environment that was positive on the whole, albeit still volatile, equities and investment fund shares were the biggest winners. Taken together, these two factors led to a marked rise in households’ financial assets in the amount of just under €105 billion (or 2.0%) in the fourth quarter. Viewed over the full year, too, valuation changes in equities and investment fund shares also made an overall positive contribution to the rise in financial assets. As at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, the financial assets of this sector totalled €5,318 billion (or 176% of the annualised gross domestic product). This represents a significant increase of €236 billion (or 4.6%) compared with the end of 2014. 

At €8.5 billion, households' external financing in the period under review was very positive but markedly lower than in the preceding quarter. Loans taken out mainly took the form of loans for house purchase. Domestic banks were the sole lenders. On balance, loans granted by insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries fell. Households' total liabilities consequently went up by 0.5% to €1,622 billion. In conjunction with the marked rise in financial assets, this caused an increase in net financial assets of just over €97 billion (or 2.7%) in the period under review, bringing them to €3,697 billion. The debt ratio – defined as total liabilities as a percentage of annualised nominal gross domestic product – dipped slightly to 53.6% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, representing a year-on-year fall of just under 1 percentage point. 

Non-financial corporations: strong acquisition of financial assets once again as debt levels fall

Totalling €65 billion, the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets by non-financial corporations remained strong during the fourth quarter of 2015, as in previous quarters. The lion's share was invested in bank deposits (including currency) and shares and other equity, which saw inflows of around €21 billion and €19 billion respectively in net terms. Additionally, non-financial corporations invested in investment fund shares to a somewhat lesser extent (just under €2 billion). By contrast, lending made negative contributions – at just over minus €2 billion, this figure was negative for the first time since mid-2014. Loans to domestic corporations, in particular, were reduced. Holdings of debt securities also fell marginally, by €0.5 billion overall on balance, although there was net investment in debt securities issued by other domestic corporations. 

Amounting to just under €12 billion, external financing was higher in the quarter under review than in the third quarter but, all things considered, growth was comparatively moderate. Positive contributions arose from funds raised through loans, with funds being tapped on a larger scale abroad, in particular. By contrast, borrowing from domestic lenders was subdued. Financing via market-based instruments such as shares was also increased. Amongst others, just over €1 billion worth of listed shares were issued on balance, for example, with much of this funding coming from domestic other financial intermediaries. However, debt securities financing fell on balance (minus €1 billion), most notably with net reductions in holdings at other domestic monetary financial institutions. 

The transaction-related increase in both financial assets and liabilities was partly offset by valuation changes, which left a mark on financial assets (plus €88 billion) but had a particular impact on liabilities (plus €196 billion). Taking these strong valuation effects into account, net financial assets fell by just over €55 billion (or minus 3.8%) overall, meaning that they stood at minus €1,508 billion at the end of the fourth quarter. The debt ratio – defined as the sum of issued debt securities, loans and pension provisions as a percentage of annualised nominal gross domestic product – therefore stood at 61.1% at the end of the year. As annualised gross domestic product recorded stronger growth than debt, the debt ratio shrank on the quarter and was consequently lower than at the end of 2014. 

Owing to interim data revisions of the financial accounts as well as national accounts, the figures stated in this press release are not directly comparable with those shown in earlier press releases.