German economy minister sees steady growth through 2017

German Economy Minister Gabriel attends a press conference after the Franco-German Financial Council meeting in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday he expects growth in Europe’s largest economy in 2016 and 2017 to be comparable to the 1.7 percent expansion achieved last year.

“We expect comparable numbers this year and next,” Gabriel told an event for medium-sized businesses.

Germany’s leading economic institutes on Wednesday revised up their 2016 growth forecast to 1.9 percent from 1.6 percent, several sources familiar with a report due to be presented to the government told Reuters on Wednesday.

The institutes, whose estimates form the basis for the government’s own predictions, revised down their estimate for 2017 growth to 1.4 percent from their previous forecast of 1.5 percent, the sources said.

Gabriel urged business executives to take advantage of favorable economic conditions such as near-zero interest rates to make investments that could spur future growth.

“We cannot count on interest rates remaining this low forever,” he said, warning that continued economic growth was also not guaranteed.

Gabriel warned politicians against seizing on current German government surpluses to demand more government spending.

He said it would be more prudent to use government money to set up a “fund for the future”, including potential investments in the digital economy, that could help prepare for potential future problems.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michelle Martin)