When the S&P, always so conveniently ahead of the curve, yesterday revised its forecast for Europe from growth in the second half of 2013 to 2014 one couldn't help but golf clap, as well as wonder if they finally started looking at the fundamental depressionary reality on the ground instead of the rating agency's infamous "models." A depressionary reality confirmed by the latest car sales number for May which just hit a fresh 20 year low.
European car sales hit their lowest level for the month of May in 20 years as the region's recession dragged on, the European automakers' association said Tuesday.
They meant depression instead of recession, but it's an honest mistake.
Passenger car sale demand for May dropped by 5.9 percent on the same month last year in the 27-country European Union to 1.042 million units, the lowest level since May 1993, when sales dropped below 1 million, according to new figures released by ACEA. For the first five months of the year, sales dropped 6.8 percent to 5.07 million.
The economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro shrank by 0.2 percent in the first quarter of this year — the sixth such decline in a row — and unemployment is at 12.2 percent. Meanwhile, the wider 27-country EU has also seen its economy slide into recession, shrinking 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2013.
Europe's recession has hit carmakers especially hard, as consumers put off purchases of high-ticket price items like cars under rising unemployment. Carmakers have announced factory closures and put off new car launches in a bid for survival and to return their struggling European operations to profitability.
And while the picture in the periphery has been bleak for a long, long time, the collapse in German car sales is certainly a novel development:
Even in Germany, Europe's strongest economy, car sales dropped to a worrying 9.9 percent in May. In Europe's other leading car markets, the picture was just as bad: Italy was down 8 percent, France saw a 10.4 percent drop, and Spain was off by 2.6 percent. Britain was the only major car market to post growth, up 11 percent.
It may be time for France to further bailout its semi-nationalized car makers. Just to make them more efficient and what not:
Mass market carmakers — PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Renault, Ford, General Motors and Fiat — all suffered double-digit declines in May. Germany's Volkswagen saw its sales drop at a slightly lower rate — a 2.8 percent drop in brand sales and 5.9 percent decline for the group. Sales of Mercedes brand were up 2.8 percent, while BMW brand sales declined 8.1 percent.
So aside from this, the record high unemployment, the record high non-performing loans, and the constant threat of bank deposit confiscation virtually everywhere now courtesy of Diesel-BOOM, Europe is doing just great: after all how else could one explain the jump in German investor confidence? Wait, Japan's carry trade? What's that...