In the early part of the business year 2012/13, the main trends that have prevailed for several quarters continued largely unchanged. Issues such as the sovereign debt crisis—primarily in Europe, but increasingly in the USA as well—were widely discussed in the past months, but no solutions have been found at the political level that would result in a sustainable stabilization of the markets. Against this background, downward trends have been detected even in the economies of Northern and Western Europe, which had been stable thus far, while the economic landscape in Southern Europe continues to drift at a very weak level.
While this spring, the economic data from the USA defied this mood and provided some basis for optimism, since early summer, we have seen a slowdown of this momentum. Additionally, the signs suggesting a slackening of the exceptionally dynamic economic development in the threshold countries, which are so important for global economic growth—specifically, China and Brazil, and most particularly India—have most recently been confirmed.
The resulting uncertainty on the part of market participants affected the individual industries to varying degrees. While the European automobile industry’s mass market was confronted with massive declines in sales, demand in the premium segment—particularly in Germany—still remained high as of the middle of the year. Throughout the first quarter of 2012/13, demand from the energy exploration sector was still robust at a solid level, and the mechanical engineering and aviation sectors were able to continue the satisfactory development that had marked the previous periods. The market environment in the railway infrastructure segment remained equally constant, although it was the high quality segment (premium grades) that sustained the development in the rail sector; the market for standard rails continues to be dominated by overcapacities and price wars. Most recently, there were signs for a slight recovery in the white goods and consumer goods markets. The construction sector, however, continues to stagnate in most European countries.