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German trade surplus shrinks amid global tensions

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Frankfurt am Main (AFP)

Germany's trade surplus narrowed slightly in October, official data showed Monday, as Europe's export powerhouse feels the sting from global trade tensions.

The surplus stood at 17.3 billion euros ($19.7 billion) in October, down from 17.6 billion a month earlier, national statistics office Destatis said.

Imports over the period climbed 1.3 percent, outpacing a rise in exports of 0.7 percent.

The softening surplus comes as Germany's export-oriented firms face considerable exposure to the multiple trade battles launched by US President Donald Trump.

Trump's tariff war with China in particular has had knock-on effects, disrupting international supply chains and causing uncertainty for investors.

After a weak third quarter, concerns are growing that Europe's top economy will struggle to pick up speed in the final months of the year.

But looking in detail at Germany's latest trade figures, analyst Carsten Brzeski of ING Diba bank said "not all is doom and gloom".

He pointed out that October exports enjoyed a small rebound following a dip in September.

Demand for "Made in Germany" goods in eurozone countries jumped nine percent year-on-year, while the US remains Germany's single most important export destination despite the current headwinds.

Notably, trade with Britain has "lost importance" as German firms brace for Brexit-induced disruptions to commerce, Brzeski said.

"Today's data brings some relief but also shows that there is still a long way to go before the traditional growth engine will be back at full strength," Brzeski added.

"The ongoing trade tensions and a general weakening of global manufacturing demand has clearly left marks on the German export sector and the entire economy."

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