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German business confidence sees 4th straight rise

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image Steam rises from the chimneys in the industrial area in Duisburg, Germany

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BERLIN (AP) — German business confidence has risen for the fourth consecutive month as Europe's biggest economy continues to outperform much of the rest of the debt-hobbled continent, a closely watched survey showed yesterday.

The Ifo institute said its confidence index was up to 109.6 points for February from 108.3 in January. Economists had predicted a more modest rise to 108.8.

Companies' view of their outlook for the next six months improved for the fourth month in a row, while their view of the current situation rebounded sharply from a drop in January, the survey showed.

"Overall, the latest encouraging Ifo data corroborate the impression that the German economy will increasingly shake off any negative influence from eurozone debt crisis developments as 2012 proceeds," said Timo Klein, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

The German economy contracted by 0.2 percent in last year's fourth quarter though it grew by a solid 3 percent over 2011 as a whole. Economists are optimistic that it will return to growth in the current quarter, avoiding a recession.

Germany's economy, traditionally powered by exports but helped lately by increasingly strong domestic demand, has been a bright spot lately as the debt crisis and austerity programs have weighed on growth elsewhere in the 17-nation eurozone.

"Solid economic fundamentals, recent indicators and — despite all long-term worries — this week's almost Greek deal bode well for at least a stabilization of the German economy," said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING in Brussels.

"Today's Ifo index provides further evidence that the economic contraction at the end of last year was only a brief stopover," he added.

Ifo's survey is based on monthly responses from some 7,000 company executives.

The February survey showed that business confidence improved slightly in the manufacturing sector, and much more robustly in construction, retailing and wholesaling.

 

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