By  on February 19, 2014

BERLIN — The economic tide in Europe is turning, according to the GfK Consumer Climate Europe study for the fourth quarter of 2013, which was released Wednesday.

The survey of 14 countries on behalf of the European Commission in Brussels, undertaken by the Nuremberg-based GfK marketing research firm as well as other institutes, indicated that consumer economic and income expectations improved in almost all countries at the end of 2013. It also noted a slight upward trend in willingness to buy, despite considerable fluctuation across the European map.

GfK pointed out that though the EC is forecasting zero bottom-line growth for 2013 as a whole, 1.4 percent growth is predicted for 2014, with a 1.9 percent rise slated for 2015. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have the strongest growth forecasts, at between 3 and 4 percent, but only slight improvement is expected in the crisis countries including Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. It will take another year, the study said, before growth returns to the economies of  Cyprus and Slovenia.

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The outlook remains rosy for Europe’s largest economy, Germany, where further growth, increased employment, rising salaries for many, and national budget surpluses are being predicted. The Bundesbank has raised its 2014 economic growth forecast from 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent, and foresees advances of 2 percent in 2015. That’s a fourfold increase in comparison with 2013.

After two years of recession, the report said there is light at the end of the tunnel for Spain, where experts foresee economic gains of 0.5 percent for 2014 and 1.7 percent in 2015. Consumers are becoming more confident in the Czech Republic, which also went through a two-year recession, and the economic expectations indicator there is now at its highest level since December 2009.

Portugal appears to be coming out of recession, though consumers remain extremely cautious, according to the report, and willingness to buy also remains weak in the Netherlands, now only gradually coming out of recession. In terms of Europe’s five key markets, both Italy and France remain at the tail end regarding consumers’ current income expectations.

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