2018 Integrated Report – On track towards a better Railway

Business development

Economic environment weakened

Development of important macroeconomic indicators compared to the previous year (%)




Global trade (in real terms)


Trade in goods


































The data for 2016 to 2018, adjusted for price and calendar effects, is based on information and estimates available as of February 2019.
Source: Oxford Economics

Diverging developments in economic growth

2018 was characterized by diverging developments in the world’s most significant economic regions. Economic growth in Europe overall slowed slightly, showing sometimes large differences between individual countries. Also in Asia, the economic cycle is drawing to a close with growth rates that are dropping, even if for the most part still relatively high by comparison. In contrast, economic growth in North America – particularly in the USA – continued to grow. The upswing was driven above all by private consumption with nearly full employment and rising salaries. Company investments also contributed greatly. The latter was also boosted by the tax cuts implemented.

It is the stated goal of the American government to reduce the USA’s large trade deficit. Changes to customs and other regulations are being used to achieve this, along with pressuring companies to produce a larger share of their added value within the USA. This policy restricts spillover effects of the positive economic development in the USA from benefiting other countries and world trade. At the same time, the American Federal Reserve raised in­­ter­­est rates further in order to curtail inflation and avoid excess demand. As a result, there was appreciation pressure on the dollar, which is particularly problematic for many developing and emerging countries, as they have large debts in dollars. In addition, essential import goods that, like crude oil, are traded in dollars, became more expensive. By comparison, a stronger dollar has comparatively smaller effects on Europe. It is true that prices, particularly of crude oil and therefore fuel, for example, have increased, leading to a rise in inflation. However, American products becoming more expensive on world markets and therefore comparatively less competitive, also leads to a growth trend in the form of increasing export demand for European products.