As Europe's financial crisis and recession continue, it's hard to believe that the troubled continent's markets are performing well. Despite a tough start to the year, however, the German DAX (DAXINDICES:^DAX) has been all green in the past month. This past week, the DAX picked up another 1.9% to set an all-time high. Germany's been the lone holdout of fiscal responsibility in Europe throughout the recession, but how are its stocks performing -- and is there value across the Atlantic for your portfolio?
Unemployment down, but growth remains elusive
Germany's experience in the recession has been a lot smoother than its European neighbors. Unemployment rates for both young and old workers have fallen below their pre-recession levels and manufacturing recently has picked up. The nation's industrial production rose 1.2% in March, beating flat expectations and giving hope that Europe's industrial nexus can pick up where the rest of the continent is lagging. However, Germany's Purchasing Managers Index hasn't fared quite as well, falling further into contraction territory in April.
Throughout Europe's struggles, German leadership has pushed for austerity-backed measures to treat troubled economies. That hasn't sat well with everyone recently: U.S. Treasury officials are reportedly ready to push Germany to allow more flexibility for debt-plagued economies such as Spain and the Netherlands. Germany and other nations are still battling over implementing a eurozone banking union, a measure supported by the U.S.
Germany's mixed fortunes have hit its leading companies in different ways, despite the DAX's recent rise. Automaker Volkswagen's (NASDAQOTH:VWAGY) shares have fallen more than 11.7% year to date despite the company's prominent presence in China. Recalls haven't helped investors: Volkswagen announced a Chinese recall of more than 380,000 vehicles in March in a move that could cost $600 million, a hefty sum for investors already dealing with the stock's atrocious performance in 2013. On Thursday, Volkswagen announced another recall of 91,000 vehicles, this time in Japan, over similar problems to the Chinese event.
Volkswagen's recalls come at a terrible time: Rival Toyota (NYSE:TM) has lost ground in China recently with the Japanese-Chinese political spat over the Senkaku Islands heating up, and Toyota's losses -- the firm's Chinese sales fell 6.5% in April -- could be Volkswagen's gain. However, VW can't afford any more trouble if it wants to cement its place among the top automakers in the world's second-largest economy.
Other industrial stocks are also hitting the red: Siemens (NASDAQOTH:SIEGY), Europe's largest engineering firm, has seen its stock dip more than 4% this year. That wasn't helped after CEO Peter Loescher offered a pessimistic sentiment of his company's full-year profit a week ago, particularly as Siemens' margins trail other leading industrial conglomerates. With many leading economies still struggling for growth, it'll be tough for Siemens to outperform investor expectations -- particularly as Europe's crisis shows no signs of abating.
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