German consumers remain wary of spending as a result of price spikes and volatile stock market swings linked to US crises, a survey by the GfK institute shows today.

The latest GfK consumer index forecast, the main measure of German consumer sentiment, was unchanged at 4.5 points, the same level as in the preceding two months.

Germans are concerned about the consequences of a slowdown of the global economy, slumping US activity and sharp swings on stock  markets. Inflation also remains high, at a provisional 2.7% in January, which discourages consumers further.

Economic expectations and the inclination to make large purchases, two of the barometer's components, fell back in the institute's latest poll of around 2,000 people.

But that scepticism was compensated for in part by hope of an increase in personal income. That was the result of a continued decrease in unemployment, the  perspective of strong wage increases amid ongoing negotiations or talks that were set to start soon, and recent data that showed Europe's biggest economy was resisting the global financial turmoil.

For its monthly survey, GfK quizzes consumers on their views on  the economic outlook and income expectations, as well as their propensity to make purchases.

'The consumer still does not know which direction to go in,' GfK said. But a continued decrease in unemployment along with 'acceptable' prices for energy, fuel and food were essential preconditions for a rebound in consumption this year.

The government is banking on such a rebound to take over from exports as an engine of growth. Berlin has forecast the economy would grow by 1.7% this year, down from 2.5% in 2007 and 2.9% in 2006.