German economy to grow "decently" in 2013 - Finance Minister

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Germany's economy will expand at a decent rate next year, underpinned by exports to countries outside the euro zone, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Speaking to newspaper Bild, he added he had no plans for an austerity package after parliamentary elections next September, denying a weekend media report.

"The situation is better than we thought because among other things, business with the United States and Asia is stronger. The German economy will therefore grow decently in 2013," Schaeuble said in an advance extract from Friday's edition of the top-selling daily.

The euro zone debt crisis was, however, having some effect on Europe's biggest economy, he said.

Germany's trade surplus has hit its lowest since March, latest figures from October show, with exports posting meagre growth due to weakening demand from Europe.

Many economists expect the government to cut its growth forecast for next year from a current projection of 1 percent due partly to a likely sluggish turn of the year, but few expect a recession - two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Schaeuble said the government wanted to present a plan for a balanced budget before the election, but he "comprehensively" denied a report in Der Spiegel that any new government led by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel would seek to impose austerity measures thereafter.

The magazine said the finance ministry had drafted plans for an extensive post-election programme including cuts in social spending and a rise in sales tax.

Many pollsters expect Merkel to win the vote and to team up with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in a grand coalition. An Infratest Dimap poll from last week put Merkel's conservative bloc on 40 percent, some ten points ahead of the SPD. The Greens, the SPD's preferred partner, were on 13 percent.

The finance ministry, which also denied the Spiegel report, has said its officials are working on getting a balanced budget in 2013.

In the Bild interview, Schaeuble warned against steep wage rises next year. "I think moderate wage increases are possible but in economically unsettled times should not go over the top," he said.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by John Stonestreet)
Last updated: 01/15/2013
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