* IMF says fiscal overperformance must be avoided
* Germany must continue re-balancing economy
* Should show leadership in financial sector initiatives
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN, Aug 6 The IMF warned Germany on Tuesday
against being overly ambitious in consolidating its budget given
risks to growth in Europe's largest economy, which has not
decoupled from the rest of the crisis-hit euro zone.
The International Monetary Fund, which kept its forecast for
0.3 percent German growth this year, said it welcomed Berlin's
modest loosening of fiscal policy to boost domestic demand. That
is seen driving expansion in the traditionally export-led
However, it also said proactive fiscal policies "would be
needed" if growth prospects soured. Some IMF directors already
saw scope for more stimulus.
"It will be important to avoid continued fiscal
overperformance as this may imply a contractionary fiscal
stance," the IMF wrote in a regular review of the German
economy. "Macroeconomic policy settings now need to be
appropriately supportive of growth in Germany given the
substantial downside risks."
Berlin must be prepared to invoke "the escape clause under
the debt brake rule" - a legal commitment to cut its structural
deficit to no more than 0.35 percent of gross domestic product -
in the case of a large shock to the economy, the IMF said.
"The outlook for the remainder of 2013 and next year is
heavily dependent on a gradual recovery in the rest of the euro
area and a sustained reduction in uncertainty."
Growth should return to potential in 2014, although it will
probably only reach 1.3 percent, according to the IMF.
While the German economy propped up growth in the euro zone
during the early years of the region's debt crisis, it faltered
at the end of last year and only narrowly avoided a recession at
the start of 2013.
Recent data, such as Tuesday's figures showing industry
orders surging at the fastest pace since October, suggest the
economy is gaining traction albeit tentatively.
The IMF said the German banking system was now more stable,
but vulnerabilities remain, in part because the regulatory
landscape is still unsettled.
"Directors looked forward to German leadership in
articulating a clear, coherent roadmap towards achieving
European financial sector initiatives," the Fund said.
Germany must also continue with reforms, for example
improving the productivity of the services sector, to raise its
growth potential and achieve a more balanced economy no longer
so heavily reliant on exports.
"Given the size of Germany's economy and its large external
imbalances, stronger and more balanced growth in Germany is
critical to a lasting recovery in the euro area and global
rebalancing," the IMF said.
(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller; Editing by Susan