Germany’s 10-year government bond yields slipped into negative territory on Friday for the first time since October 2016.
Hitting a low of -0.001 percent, the 10-year bond yield’s downturn comes amid rising concern about the direction of the euro zone’s largest economy, with a string of weak data in recent months fueling speculation that Germany could be heading for recession.
IHS Markit’s PMI survey published Friday revealed that Germany’s manufacturing sector contracted for the third consecutive month in March, with output growth nearing a six-year low.
German government 10-year bond, an important benchmark for European fixed income assets, is viewed as a safe-haven for investors. In times of uncertainty, investors tend to move their investments from riskier assets into safe-havens like gold and German government bonds. The bond yields hitting negative territory shows there is a rising demand for the 10-year paper due to the ongoing uncertainty in the euro zone economy being fueled from a slowdown in Germany, a deadlock among politicians on Brexit among others.
Meanwhile, data from Germany’s federal statistics office (Destatis) in February showed that the country narrowly avoided a recession in the fourth-quarter of 2018, with the economy growing 0.0 percent from the previous quarter.
In January, German’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 1.5 percent in 2018, compared with 2.2 percent growth in 2017. Although it was Germany’s weakest growth in five years, Destatis noted that the economy had still grown for the ninth year in a row.
Adding to the slowdown in Germany is the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union. In the latest, the European Union agreed to an extension to the date of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the bloc, but said the length of the delay would depend on whether Parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal next week.
All of these factors seem to be adding to investors being cautious in the region. Earlier this month, the euro zone’s central bank slashed its growth forecast for 2019 to 1.1 percent from an earlier forecast of 1.7 percent made in December.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned that there had been a “sizable moderation in economic expansion that will extend into the current year.”