Feb 26, 8:12 AM EST

What crises in Ukraine, Greece? German consumer confidence at highest since dot-com era

AP Photo
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
Business Video

Latest Business News
Airlines are rejecting giant shipments of lithium-ion batteries; not an issue for others

Best Buy, Orexigen, Ford, McDermott and Nutrisystem are big market movers

US stocks fall a day after Nasdaq passes 5,000 for first time in 15 years; energy stocks rise

Target plans $2 billion in cost-cutting moves over next 2 years

How the Dow Jones industrial average and other major indexes fared on Tuesday

Multimedia
A district summary of the Beige Book
Measuring economic stress by county nationwide
Mall malaise: shoppers browse, but don't buy
Unemployment by the numbers
Family struggles with father's unemployment
Saying an affordable goodbye
Hard times hit small car dealer
Latest Economic News
Actions by other central banks complicate Fed's decision on when to raise US interest rates

Business Roundtable: Trade would increase hiring of US workers

Ukraine hikes benchmark interest rate to 30 percent in bid to halt devaluation, inflation

Russia's rainy day fund drops 10 pct in dollar terms in Feb as state tries to support budget

Swiss economy posts better-than-expected growth for 4th quarter, last before euro peg dropped

US manufacturing grew in February at slowest pace in a year as output and employment weakened

As European Central Bank prepares to start stimulus, rate of decline in eurozone prices eases

Investor Warren Buffett says US economy still growing steadily; results show in his businesses

Puerto Rico's state-owned power company seeks to delay completion of debt restructuring plan

Why the US economy will be fine in 2015, even though growth slowed in the fourth quarter

Buy AP Photo Reprints
Interactives
Greece's Debt Threatens to Spread
State budget
gaps map
Auto industry problems trickle down, punish Tennessee county
Women give old Derby hats a makeover in tough economy
S.C. town deals with highest unemployment in South
How mortgages were bundled and sold as securities
Tracking the $700 billion financial bailout
Tracking the year's job losses
State-by-state foreclosures since 2007
Credit crisis explained
Presidents and their economic legacies
Lexicon of the financial crisis
Americans' addiction to debt
Interactive
Berlin Wall: 20 Years Later

BERLIN (AP) -- Consumer confidence in Germany has hit its highest level in 13 years, leading an increase across Europe, as low energy costs and interest rates helped offset any concerns about the crises in Ukraine and Greece.

A survey released Thursday showed the rise in German consumer optimism to the highest levels since the dot-com boom buoyed the global economy was driven by an increase in disposable income as energy prices dropped.

The findings were echoed by a report on the wider eurozone, which saw confidence among both consumers and businesses increase to a seven-month high in February.

The region's economic outlook has brightened also thanks to a weaker euro, which helps exporters, and the European Central Bank's decision to provide a big monetary stimulus.

Though cheaper goods are helping consumers in the short term, the possibility that shoppers might come to expect lower prices in the longer-term has been a key concern for policymakers as that could trap the economy in a downward spiral. The ECB cited falling prices as a key concern in deciding to offer its stimulus.

For now, the lower cost of living is providing a welcome boost.

Germany's GfK research group said its forward-looking consumer climate index rose to 9.7 points for March from 9.3 in February. That's the highest value since October 2001, when the global economy was riding the wave of the dot-com boom.

The German GfK survey of 2,000 consumers shows increases in their economic and income expectations, as well as their willingness to buy as "the collapse in energy prices is boosting the purchasing power of private households."

"At present, German consumers are seemingly not greatly affected by the recent escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West as well as events in Greece," GfK said.

Separately, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in February from 7 percent the month before, with just over 3 million people out of work, the Federal Statistical Office said. When adjusted for seasonal factors the rate remained 6.5 percent.

"The German labor market has become solid as a rock and less affected by short-term volatility of the economy," said ING economist Carsten Brzeski. "Combined with low inflation and wage increases of around 3 percent it is no surprise that German consumers are currently very optimistic. "

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.