Acquisition of financial assets and financing in Germany in the first quarter of 2014
Results of the financial accounts by sector
In the first quarter of 2014, the financial assets of households rose by €54 billion on the quarter, climbing to €5,207 billion. The transaction-related acquisition of financial assets accounted for a relatively large share of this increase (€49 billion), while valuation gains played only a minor role (just under €5 billion). The latter were primarily attributable to shares and mutual fund shares. The trend towards lower-risk assets, which has been evident for some time now, continued during the quarter under review despite reduced uncertainty and low interest rates on secure forms of investment. As households' liabilities increased only moderately during the quarter under review, their net financial assets rose by €52 billion to €3,626 billion in the first quarter of 2014. The financial assets of non-financial corporations recorded a marked decline of €38 billion and came to €3,490 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2014. At the same time, their liabilities increased by just under €7 billion to €5,153 billion. Consequently, this sector's net financial assets were down overall on the quarter.
Households: moderate rise in financial assets and liabilities
In the first quarter of 2014, the transaction-related acquisition of financial assets by households totalled around €49 billion, and was thus roughly on a par with the same quarter of the previous year. Alongside the sharp growth in claims on insurance corporations (of just over €25 billion) – a phenomenon which is frequently observed during the first quarter of the year – there were inflows of funds into bank deposits (including currency) in particular, which amounted to around €10 billion (compared with +€32 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013). However, currency and transferable deposits recorded inflows of only €11 billion, the lowest figure since 2011, while time deposits and savings deposits (including savings certificates) once again posted outflows of funds totalling €1 billion. On balance, households' preference for more liquid and, in particular, low-risk forms of investment, which had already been observed in previous quarters, continued at the start of 2014.
The acquisition of financial assets via the capital markets was once again rather weak and primarily took the form of investment in shares and mutual fund shares. Net acquisitions of shares amounted to just under €3 billion which was the highest figure recorded since the end of 2011 (-€4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013). By contrast, net acquisitions of mutual fund shares, which amounted to just under €3 billion, of which mixed securities funds recorded especially sharp inflows, were somewhat down on the quarter overall (previously +€3 billion). The rather weak acquisition of financial assets via these forms of investment is likely to be due not only to the subdued capital market performance during the quarter under review, but also to households' ongoing risk aversion. Just under €3 billion net in debt securities (including money market paper) were sold in the first quarter (-€4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013).
The transaction-related increase in financial assets of €49 billion was accompanied by relatively low valuation gains amounting to just under €5 billion (compared with +€47 billion in the previous quarter). They were mainly attributable to shares and mutual fund shares owned by households. Overall, financial assets thus rose by €54 billion to €5,207 billion.
During the period under review, households' external financing, at just under €1 billion, was somewhat lower than in the previous period. However, in nominal terms, households' usually cautious attitude to borrowing (including other liabilities) at this time of year was much less in evidence in the first quarter of 2014 than it had been in the past, when external financing usually slipped into negative territory during the first quarter of the year. Loans for house purchase and consumer loans continued to be the main forms of new borrowing. Loans to domestic banks were repaid on balance, while liabilities to other creditors (including insurance corporations) increased. Households' total liabilities thus amounted to €1,581 billion. In combination with the rise in financial assets during the period under review, this resulted in net financial assets increasing by €52 billion to €3,626 billion. The debt ratio – defined as total liabilities as a percentage of annualised gross domestic product – shrank by 0.5 percentage point to 57.2% at the end of the quarter.
Non-financial corporations: marked decline in financial assets and slight rise in liabilities
In the first quarter of 2014, the acquisition of financial assets by non-financial corporations was negative on balance, with outflows of around €6 billion (+€5 billion in the previous quarter). On the one hand, shares and other equity (excluding mutual fund shares) in particular recorded inflows of just over €12 billion, which were due not least to enterprises' strong investment activity abroad. Furthermore, enterprises also extended their lending (especially intragroup loans) by €8 billion and topped up their holdings of debt securities by just over €1 billion. On the other hand, there were outflows of €34 billion from bank deposits (including currency).
At €16 billion, non-financial corporations' external financing during the quarter under review was considerably higher than in the previous quarter (-€12 billion) and thus broke the downward trend that had been observed since mid-2012. This was primarily due to enterprises' high level of domestic borrowing, which in the case of both borrowing via banks (€9 billion) and borrowing via non-banks (excluding general government; €12 billion) was significantly above the long-term average. Furthermore, equity financing (just over €2 billion) made a positive contribution to external financing as a whole, albeit on a smaller scale. Financing via debt securities (including money market paper) amounted to just over €1 billion. Other liabilities, of which primarily trade credits and advances, once again decreased on balance by just over €2 billion.
Overall, non-financial corporations' net financial assets thus fell by €44 billion in total and came to €1,663 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Despite the rise in debt, the debt ratio – defined as the sum of issued debt securities, loans and company pension commitments as a percentage of annualised gross domestic product – declined to 65.8% (fourth quarter of 2013: 66.2%), as a result of even sharper growth in gross domestic product.