German trade surplus narrows on higher imports


Frankfurt am Main (AFP)

German imports outpaced exports in October, slightly narrowing the country's oft-criticised massive trade surplus, preliminary data showed on Friday.

Exports from Europe's top economy slid 0.4 percent compared with September, while imports climbed by 1.8 percent, federal statistics office Destatis said in seasonally-adjusted figures.

The bigger demand for goods from abroad lowered Germany's trade surplus from 21.8 billion euros ($25.6 billion) in September to 19.9 billion euros in October.

Analyst Carsten Brzeski of ING Diba bank said the soft trade data signalled that Germany's otherwise strong economy was starting the fourth quarter "on a weaker footing".

But he saw no reason to worry.

"Behind the vacation and weather driven white noise of monthly data, however, there is a clear upward trend," he said, noting that exports remained a strong driver of growth in Germany.

October imports were driven higher by brisk appetite for goods made within the European Union, particularly outside the eurozone, Destatis noted.

The feeling was mutual, with demand for "made in Germany" goods led by EU countries.

"Germany currently exports as much to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic as it does to the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg," Brzeski said.

Exports to the UK "are becoming less important", he added, as the island nation grapples with how to navigate its complex exit from the 28-member bloc.

October's uptick in imports is unlikely however to silence critics of Germany's massive trade surplus, the world's largest which swelled to around 250 billion euros last year.

The United States, the International Monetary Fund and European peers regularly urge Germany to invest more to push up consumption and allow other countries to benefit indirectly from its success.