Germany's economic resilience continues as Europe struggles all around the continent's leading economy. German stocks have waxed and waned throughout the year, but this week was a good one for investors as the DAX (DAXINDICES:^DAX) picked up gains of more than 2.2%, shoring up what's been a bad past month for the index overall. Export strength continues to fuel Germany's slight economic growth, but can that continue as other European nations feud with the region's unofficial leader over the continent's future? Is this still a safe spot for investors?
Doubling down on exports
Engaging with Germany has become a headache-inducing problem for European countries recently. German leaders blocked a deal this week on carbon emission limits for cars in an attempt to protect domestic players such as Volkswagen (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY), who have made gains despite the region's downturn. Volkswagen and other auto leaders have helped prop up the German economy, particularly with strong exports to nations such as China -- where VW's one of the market leaders. The country's me-first approach is working well for investors, but not for other countries in Europe mired in an economic drought.
European anti-German sentiment -- seen in debt-plagued nations such as Greece and Italy recently -- isn't likely to spark a backlash against German exporters like it has against the country's leadership. While the situation might appear tense, this isn't China and its caustic relationship with Japan that led to riots against Japanese automakers and other firms. Europe still holds on to a mandate of cooperation, and as long as that holds on, leading German firms like VW and other industrial companies should be able to tap into the EU successfully as a source of revenue -- albeit a struggling one.
An opposite effect has emerged -- European firms have turned to Germany for growth. French bank BNP Paribas (NASDAQOTH:BNPQY) is looking to cut costs and expand in Germany to boost its European sales, according to The Wall Street Journal. At first glance, it's a smart move by BNP: Few other economies in Europe are providing growth to financial firms, and leading banks in other countries have looked abroad for growth. Considering BNP's stock has lost more than 5% this year and the company's also looking to expand in North America and Asia, the international approach is a way to reduce dependence on a struggling business climate in Europe.
Yet it'll have a tough time competing with the likes of Deustche Bank (NYSE:DB) and Commerzbank, Germany's second-largest and largest loan lenders. Deustche Bank in particular has grown impressively in Germany, increasing its market share substantially over the past few years and providing the fuel for exporters like VW to grow.
The bank's growth hasn't translated to its financials or its stock recently -- the latter which has sunk more than 4% year to date -- but investors looking to Germany should key in on the country's export-led environment for winning stock picks. Deutsche Bank, as a major lender of large loans to exporters, fits that bill.
Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.