German exports, imports down as crisis bites
(FRANKFURT) - German exports and imports fell sharply in April as Europe's biggest economy begins to feel the effects of the long-running eurozone debt crisis, data showed on Friday.
Germany exported goods worth a total 90.0 billion euros ($112.7 billion) in seasonally-adjusted terms in April, 1.7 percent less than in March, the national statistics office Destatis said.
Imports were down even more sharply, shrinking 4.8 percent to 73.9 billion euros, meaning the seasonally-adjusted trade surplus increased to 16.1 billion euros from 14.0 billion euros in March.
Taking the first four months of 2012 as a whole, however, the picture was more positive, with German exports rising 5.2 percent over the year-earlier period to 363.1 billion euros in unadjusted terms and imports up 3.3 percent at 303.2 billion euros.
That meant the January-April trade surplus increased by 15.9 percent to 59.8 billion euros.
Analysts said the monthly data were worse than expected.
The release "shows that Germany is not immune to a slowdown in world trade and flagging demand from the eurozone," said Natixis economist Constantin Wirschke.
According to Destatis, exports to Germany's partners in the single currency area were down 3.6 percent year-on-year in April, while exports to countries outside Europe grew by 10.3 percent.
Newedge Strategy analyst Annalisa Piazza also saw the data as a "clear signal that the German economy is beginning to suffer from the effects of the current crisis."
Foreign trade "has been one of the key factors supporting activity in the first quarter whilst today's data cast some doubts on the future development of net exports contribution to growth," Piazza said.
"Poor trade activity might be seen as a harbinger of moderation in the economy as a whole as demand is fading, both domestically and externally," she concluded.
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