Macroeconomic framework conditions
The global economy grew more slowly than expected in 2013. This was due in particular to decreased momentum in the major emerging economies. In contrast, growth picked up somewhat in the advanced economies, although the USA fell short of its potential because of the fiscal dispute. The eurozone achieved flat growth over the year, thanks to the moderate improvement in the economic situation in peripheral countries on the one hand, and ongoing robust development in Germany on the other.
Disposable income in Germany was up by 1.0% year-on-year, while the savings ratio declined slightly. Historically low deposit interest rates led once more to greater investment in real assets, including property, and prices here increased again substantially in major conurbations.
Framework conditions for brokerage
Although at 9,552 points the DAX was up 25.5% on the end of 2012 and hit an all-time high in December, trading activities on the German stock exchanges overall did not match the previous year's level. Although in terms of value, the volume of trading in the German spot market (XETRA, Frankfurt and Tradegate) was on a par with the previous year, the number of orders for equities declined by 22.4% and orders for exchange traded index funds (ETF) including exchange traded commodities (ETC) and exchange traded notes (ETN) were down by 3.5%.
Nevertheless, the downturn in trading activity on the stock exchanges does not necessarily reflect the behaviour of private investors, but was heavily influenced by the restraint exercised by institutional investors. This group seemed distinctly wary of the positive development in the DAX in the second half of the year in particular.
In derivatives trading (Euwax and Frankfurt stock market), stock exchange turnover was down 4.8% on the figure for 2012. The decrease in leveraged certificates (7.4%) was bigger than in investment certificates (3.1%).
The retail funds included in the statistics of the Bundesverband Investment und Asset Management e.V. (BVI) posted inflows of €14.4bn in the first eleven months of 2013 (previous year: €20.7bn). Bond funds and mixed funds were particularly popular with investors, as were open-ended property funds. Equity funds recorded net outflows, which at €5.7bn were almost as high as in the previous year.
The ebase fund barometer, which is published four times a year and illustrates the trading volume of over 50 thousand fund advisers, showed a significant gain in the first half of the year: rising prices prompted an upswing in fund trading and reallocations within numerous custody accounts. In the second half of the year, the trend towards sharebased strategies was overshadowed by profit-taking. The proportion of mixed funds and ETFs in end customer custody accounts increased, while unit redemptions predominated for funds of funds and money market funds. Interest in open-ended property funds also waned significantly, after the implementation of the EU Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM-UmsG) in July led to stricter terms and conditions for the redemption of units.
Demand for private provisioning products (Riester pensions) remained low again in 2013. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs recorded an increase in the number of contracts of 0.7% in the first nine months of the year, primarily as a result of the “Eigenheimrente” pension provisioning scheme. There was only a marginal change in the number of insurance, bank saving and fund contracts.
Framework conditions for banking
The central banks in Europe and the USA retained their expansive money market policy in spite of the small economic recovery in both regions. The European Central Bank (ECB) cut its main lending rate in May and November 2013 by 25 basis points each time to the record low of 0.25%, and as in previous years continued to provide an almost unlimited supply of liquidity.
Three-month EURIBOR, which is the decisive rate for some of our investments, reached new lows as a result of the expansive monetary policy. At 0.22% on average for the year, the rate was 35 basis points below the respective figure for 2012 (0.57%).
The bond markets were characterised by temporarily higher volatilities on the interest rate side and spread tightening. Risk premiums on bonds from peripheral euro countries reduced again during the course of the year, while top-rated paper, such as German government bonds, posted modest rises in yields.
comdirect’s Treasury portfolio, which focuses on low probabilities of default, saw declining yields on average for the year. This is particularly due to the reinvestment of maturing securities at substantially lower interest rates and spread levels. Development of the spread component with regard to Commerzbank AG, our biggest counterparty by far, was largely stable. On the whole, margins in the deposit business remained under pressure due to market developments, even though interest rates for customers were also adjusted downwards.
Framework conditions for advice
Favourable interest rate levels meant that demand for home financing remained strong despite the rise in property prices. The volume of loans for residential property construction increased by 2.9% in 2013. comdirect’s Building Finance Sentiment Index, which is calculated in conjunction with opinion research institute Forsa, stayed considerably above 100 throughout the entire year and stood at 110.0 points at the year-end. Consequently, it indicated a high level of willingness to take out building finance loans.