At the end of the third quarter of 2018, the prices for assets held by German households rose by 4.8%. While real assets and especially real estate are still on an upward trend, prices for financial assets were stagnating. Differences in both the cross-section of German households in terms of net wealth and age became significantly smaller than in previous quarters. The difference between asset price inflation and consumer price inflation, however, has fallen to 2.7 percentage points, the lowest for five years.
The increase of 4.8% in the asset price index compared with the same quarter of the previous year was two percentage points less than in the previous quarter and, for the first time after seven quarters, was below five per cent again. The different asset categories of German households exhibited very different inflation rates. While prices for real assets rose by 6.0%, prices for financial assets fell slightly by 0.5%.
Within the category of real assets, the decisive factor continued to be the development of real estate prices, which at +7.4% remain at a very high level. Price growth for the other three categories of real assets was significantly lower, albeit positive (business wealth +2.2%, durable consumer goods +1.2%, collectors’ and speculative items +2.6%).
Among the financial assets, only shares showed a slight price increase compared with the same quarter of the previous year (+0.7%). Bonds became 2.2% cheaper and other financial assets (measured by gold and commodity prices) even fell by 5.4%. The price of cash holdings remained unchanged.
In the cross-section of net wealth, the differences between the inflation rates of the various household quantiles have not been so small for a long time. While the assets of lower middle-class households rose by only 2.1% in price, the price growth rates for all other asset groups ranged between 4.2% and 5.3%. One of the reasons for this was the low inflation rate on business wealth. In the preceding quarters, price growth rates varied by up to 7.9 percentage points in the cross-section of net wealth.
In the cross-section of age, the dynamics of inflation rates are also declining. The price growth rates for the assets of all age groups were close to each other and differed only by a maximum of 0.8 percentage points. At 5.2 %, old-age pension households showed the highest annual growth rate. In previous quarters, the highest growth rates were always found in households close to retirement.
The consumer price index rose by 2.1% at the end of the third quarter and producer prices by 3.1%. Thus, the gap to the wealth price index was also significantly smaller than in previous quarters.
The FvS Wealth Price Index measures the price change of assets held by German households. The index is calculated using the Laspeyres method as a weighted average of time series of indexed prices which reflect the change in the prices of assets in euro. The index is based on the average for the year 2014. Where necessary, quality-adjusted time series have been used and gains, such as interest payments, have not been taken into account. There is no valuation approach employed. For the asset class shares, for example, the share prices and not the price-earnings ratio are taken into account. This corresponds to the procedure for commodity price indices, in which only commodity prices and not the price-utility ratio are included.
The relevant assets are selected via the study "Private Haushalte und ihre Finanzen" (PHF) of the Deutsche Bundesbank (2016). The weighting scheme of the time series is based on the survey results of the 2014 PHF study and corresponds to the share of assets in the total assets of German households. The composition of household assets in the population cross-section according to wealth and the age of the household members is very heterogeneous. Therefore, the FvS Wealth Price Index is additionally calculated for different quantiles of the distribution of net wealth of German households (total wealth less liabilities) and for different age groups (measured by the age of the reference person of the household).
The assets of a household are divided into various sub-groups of real assets and financial assets. Real assets include real estate, business wealth (net), consumer durables, and collectors' and speculative items. Financial assets include savings deposits, shares, bonds and other financial assets. Assets in the form of funds units and credit balances under cash value insurance contracts are allocated to the aforementioned components according to their respective composition.
The price development of real estate assets is tracked by the vdp-Immobilienpreisindizes (real estate price indices) by vdpResearch GmbH. The index "Wohnen" (residential) reflects the change in prices for owner-occupied residential property, while the price change for other properties is covered by the index "Gesamt" (total). Since the "Gesamt" index is available only from 2008 onwards, quarterly values before 2008 are approximated using average annual growth. The two indices are weighted according to the distribution of household wealth. Both price indices are based on a transaction database that represents almost 90 percent of the turnover of the German real estate market.
Private business wealth comprise all non-publicly traded participations of private households. The price development is approximated by the SDAX price index of Deutsche Börse, which records prices for medium-sized companies. The SDAX price index reflects the price development of 50 publicly traded companies in traditional industrial sectors that follow the MDAX-listed stocks in terms of market capitalisation and stock exchange turnover.
In order to measure the price development of durable consumer goods such as vehicles and furniture, the corresponding components of the consumer price index are used by destatis (Federal Statistical Office). The relative weighting is based on the respective weight in the consumer price index.
The price development of collectors' and speculative items is measured equally by the four representative goods categories jewellery, artworks, historical automobiles and precious wines. Jewellery prices are measured using the "Schmuck aus Edelmetallen" component of the consumer price index. The Artprice Global Index from Artprice.com is used to track price developments on the art market. This price index is based on auction prices for paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, aquarelles and similar items. The HAGI Top Index of the Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI) is used to measure the prices of historic automobiles. The index tracks the price development of 50 rare historical automobile types based on a database of transactions covering more than 18,000 individual vehicles. Quarterly values prior to 2009 are based on an equally weighted recalculation interpolating during the year. The price development of precious wines is measured with the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 published by the trading platform Liv-ex Ltd. The index measures the price development of the premium segment of the wine market for wines for which a secondary market exists. The index primarily includes Bordeaux wines, but also wines from the wine growing regions of Burgundy, Rhône, Champagne and Italy.
Since saving/sight deposits are not subject to a price directly, they are assumed not to show any price changes and are therefore modeled by a constant time series. This category includes, inter alia, current, savings, fixed-term and call money accounts, balances on building savings and non-governmental pension contracts and claims on other households.
The price development of shares is recorded by various share price indices. Using data from the Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the geographical weighting of German equity investments is determined and, based on this, MSCI price indices are weighted accordingly.
Similar to the procedure for equity investments, the geographical distribution of bond investments is determined using data from the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The price development is calculated using the corresponding bond price indices from Barclays Bank PLC. Both government and corporate bonds with different credit ratings and residual maturities are taken into account.
Other financial assets, which are not covered by the three previous categories, are measured by the development of gold and commodity prices. The Thomson Reuters Continuous Commodity Index is used for the price development of commodities, which reflects the price development of futures on various commodities. The price of gold is determined via the London Bullion Market.
The capital, which is bundled in insurance contracts and funds, is allocated on the basis of data provided by the German Insurance Association (GDV) and the Federal Association for Investment and Asset Management (BVI).
In the case of time series with daily values, the average end-of-day index status of the last quarter month is always used. For indices available monthly, the last monthly value in the quarter is used.
Revision of historical data of the underlying time series may result in a deviation of the historical index values from previous publications.
The index values of a quarter are published as follows:
First quarter: 15 May
Second quarter: 15 August
Third quarter: 15 November
Fourth quarter: 15 February of the following year
If the date falls on a weekend or a public holiday, publication will take place on the next working day.
List of data sources
Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich (BIZ)
Barclays Bank PLC
Bundesverband Investment und Asset
destatis – Statistisches Bundesamt
Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft (GDV) e.V.
Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI)
Internationaler Währungsfonds (IWF)