DUSSELDORF: As turmoil continues in the US and British financial markets and dire warnings about financial meltdown abound, European executives have voted Germany as the continent's most competitive economy.

A survey for the Handelsblatt business daily reveals 59% of 1,200 decision-makers rate the country's competitiveness as "very good" or "good"- top in Europe and second internationally only to the Chinese powerhouse.

Their approval is a marked turnaround from a similar study carried out five years ago when just 13% of respondents were optimistic about the nation's prospects.

Comments Bert Rürup, chairman of the 'council of wise men' who advise the German government on economic policy: "The economy has continually become more competitive in the past years thanks in particular to companies, but also thanks to parties negotiating collective wage agreements and politics."

Handelsblatt also reports that for the first time foreign investors own a majority share in Germany's top 30 publicly traded companies, citing this as evidence of the ability of businesses to profit from a global upswing thanks to booming exports.

Germany's chambers of industry and commerce (DIKH) are confident GDP will slow only slightly in 2008 and still expand by more than two percent. DIHK president Ludwig Georg Braun believes 300,000 jobs could be created in 2008.

German economics minister Michael Glos has, however, sounded a note of caution. In another newspaper interview he anticipated GDP would end at just under two percent during the coming year.

Data sourced from Deutsche Welle (Germany); additional content by WARC staff