Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is a key member of the European Union. Unlike other European countries the German economy weathered the recent European crisis well and the country helps rescue other debt-ridden EU members. Germany is in the news this week due to its strict and harsh bailout conditions imposed via the EU on the tiny island country of Cyprus.
With a strong manufacturing base and an export-oriented economy Germany is considered as the powerhouse of Europe. Germany was also a pioneer in many innovative policies long before other developed countries.For example, Kaiser William I also known as the Chancellor Bismarck introduced the pension system for older workers in the late 1880s. This program was later emulated by other countries.
Here are some interesting facts about Germany:
- In 2011, Germany’s population was about 82 million.
- Public debt as a share of GDP was about 82.0% in 2012.
- The unemployment rate stood at about just 6.0% in January of this year.
- The nominal GDP was $3.6 Trillion in 2011 making Germany the fourth largest economy in the world behind the U.S, China and Japan.
- Last year Germany exported goods valued at over one Trillion Euros.
- Germany is a net exporter.
Germany continues its centuries-old tradition of excellence in engineering and science. As a result today the country is home to some of the leading companies in the world such as BASF, BMW, Volkswagen, Bayer, etc.
Thousands of small and medium-sized companies called as the Mittelstand firms thrive in Germany. But at a global level large scale German multinationals dominate. For example, some of the top world-class companies are found in the Fortune Global 500 ranking.
The German firms in the Fortune Global 500 list for 2012 are shown below:
|Country Rank||Company||Global Rank||City||Revenues($ millions)|
|9||Munich Re Group||76||Munich||90,137|
|29||Marquard & Bahls||455||Hamburg||24,258|
As most of the German companies do not trade on the organized US exchanges the simple and easy way to invest in them is via the iShares Germany ETF (EWG). The fund has $3.5 billion in assets and financials account for less than 17% of the portfolio.