German consumer mood brightens as shutdowns ease

German shoppers are more upbeat heading into March on hopes that coronavirus restrictions will be eased in the weeks ahead, a key survey found Thursday.

The GfK institute’s forward-looking barometer rose to minus 12.9, up from minus 15.5 for the previous month. It marks the index’s first increase since October.

“Consumers are recovering to some extent from the shock they suffered after the tough lockdown in mid-December,” said Rolf Buerkl, GfK’s consumer expert.

“The recent dip in infection rates and the launch of the vaccination programme are fuelling hopes of a speedy easing of measures.”

Germany closed restaurants, bars, gyms and cultural centres in November before adding schools and non-essential shops in December.

The measures have been credited with helping bring down daily new infection numbers and German schools partially reopened this week while hairdressers are due to reopen on Monday.

Nevertheless, experts have cautioned that Germany’s infection rate has stabilised and even climbed in recent days as concerns grow about the spread of new, more contagious virus variants.

The GfK survey of some 2,000 Germans found that respondents were more likely to make large purchases than in the previous month.

They were also significantly more upbeat about their income expectations and the prospects for Europe’s top economy, bolstered by strong Chinese demand for German industrial exports.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 regional states will meet on March 3 to discuss whether to further loosen Covid-19 curbs or tighten them to slow the spread of the virus mutations.