World Bulletin / News Desk
German business sentiment fell for a second straight month in June to its lowest level in over two years, in the latest sign Europe's largest economy is beginning to feel the pain from the euro zone debt crisis.
The Munich-based Ifo think tank said on Friday its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 companies, dropped to 105.3 in June from 106.9 in May.
This was the lowest level since March 2010 and slightly worse than expected, with a Reuters poll of 44 economists forecasting the index would fall to 105.9.
"The euro crisis is really hitting home," Klaus Wohlrabe, an Ifo economist, told Reuters. "It's right on the front doorstep."
The Ifo data add to concerns that Germany's economy is losing stamina and may have contracted in the second quarter after it steamed ahead in the first three months of the year, helping the euro zone avoid recession by growing 0.5 percent.
Other recent data have also pointed to a slowdown. Manufacturing activity is at its weakest level in three years, according a purchasing managers' survey published on Thursday.
Imports tumbled at their fastest rate in two years in April, while exports have declined on weakening demand from within the euro zone, where Germany sends roughly 40 percent of its goods sold abroad.
Firms were more optimistic about current business conditions but a sub-index on business expectations fell to 97.3 from a revised 100.8 in May.
The biggest decline in the June Ifo data was in manufacturing, a sector that has driven German growth over the past year.
The figures were released hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Rome to meet with her Italian, Spanish and French counterparts to discuss solutions to the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis.
A significant weakening of the German economy, which has so far remained largely immune to the crisis hitting southern economies like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, could encourage Berlin to take bolder steps.
"The German ship is more solid than all other euro zone ships but latest indicators have been good reminders that even the most solid ship can capsize in a rough thunderstorm," said ING's Carsten Brzeski.
"Maybe there is one upside to the latest batch of disappointing data from the euro zone's biggest economy: it shows that a fundamental solution to the euro zone crisis is also in the interest of the German economy."
Greece has already received two bailouts totalling 240 billion euros but fellow euro zone member Ireland said last week that it would have to negotiate a third programme.
The Ukraine crisis has tested the loyalties of Bulgaria, a Balkan country with historical ties to Moscow and heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies.
Syria expels three United Nations aid workers hindering aid development in the country
Russia has overcome a "psychological barrier" and is ready to deepen its economic ties with China, Deputy Prime MinisterArkady Dvorkovich said
With Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition plus the opposition Greens, it was the biggest majority for any euro zone rescue package so far in the 631-seat chamber.
The agreement commits Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to cooperate with the United States in customs issues, ease red tape at borders, reduce customs wait times and harmonize trade standards.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that Chinahas invested in, including a $1.5 billion "port city" project in Colombo.
EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic invited Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Demchyshyn for talks
Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies.
The new canal, that will allow two-way traffic of larger ships, is supposed to increase revenues by 2023 to $13 billion.
A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month extension of a financial rescue, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave a frank assessment of Greece's financial position.
The agreement is the culmination of talks that began in September after the government decided its own solutions to its fiscal crisis were failing to convince investors.
Energy union highlights bloc's attempt to seek independency from its main gas supplier - Russia.
Merkel's right-left coalition is set to prevail, despite vocal pockets of resistance on the right and left.
Republicans passed the bill to increase pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, a move the president said would bypass a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.
Turkish PM Davutoglu expresses Turkey's readiness to help in supplying energy to Central Europe.