German consumer morale fell a fourth month in a row heading into February, as extending a stricter lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic kept people from going shopping and splashing out, a survey showed on Wednesday.
The GfK research institute said its consumer sentiment index, based on a survey of around 2,000 Germans, fell to -15.6 points from a revised -7.5 in January.
That marked the lowest reading since June and missed a Reuters forecast of -7.9. Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed last week to extend a lockdown until mid-February as Germany, once a role model for fighting the pandemic, struggles with a second wave of infections and high daily numbers of COVID-19 deaths.
The stricter lockdown, in place since mid-December, is forcing most shops and schools to close. Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues have been shut since early November.
GfK researcher Rolf Buerkl said closing large parts of the retail sector hit the propensity to buy just as hard as it did during the first lockdown in spring last year.
Consumer sentiment was likely to remain subdued in March as well, Buerkl said. A sustainable recovery could only be expected once infection numbers declined more, allowing lockdown measures to be eased, he said. "In other words, the recovery that many had hoped for this year will be postponed," Buerkl said.
The consumer climate indicator forecasts the development of real private consumption in the following month. An indicator reading above zero signals year-on-year growth in private consumption.
A value below zero indicates a drop compared with the same period a year ago. According to GfK, a one-point change in the indicator corresponds to a year-on-year change of 0.1% in private consumption.
The 'willingness to buy' indicator represents the balance between positive and negative responses to the question, "Do you think now is a good time to buy major items?"
The income expectations sub-index reflects expectations about the development of household finances in the coming 12 months.
The additional business cycle expectations index reflects the assessment of those questioned of the general economic situation in the next 12 months.