German trade surplus hits record high in 2013

AP News
Posted: Feb 07, 2014 7:20 AM

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's trade surplus hit a new high in 2013, official figures showed Friday, underscoring concerns that Europe's largest economy is relying too heavily on exports and not doing enough to encourage domestic demand.

The Federal Statistical Office said exports in 2013 dropped by 0.2 percent over 2012 to 1.09 trillion euros ($1.47 trillion) as imports fell 1.2 percent to 895 billion euros. The resulting trade surplus of 198.9 billion euros was the highest value ever recorded, beating the 195.3 billion-euro surplus of 2007 and up from last year's 189.8 billion euros.

Exports decreased by 0.9 percent from November to December, to 92.5 billion euros, while imports dropped 0.6 percent to 74 billion euros, according to figures adjusted for calendar and seasonal effects.

Germany has long faced criticism from the U.S., the International Monetary Fund and others for relying too heavily on its exports and, some contend, not importing enough to boost other economies in Europe.

Last month during a visit to Berlin, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pressed for Germany to do more to fuel domestic demand. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble dismissed the criticism, saying that "without the German surplus toward third countries, the eurozone would have no surplus at all, but a deficit."

In 2013, German exports to other countries using the euro currency fell 1.2 percent, while they rose 2.6 to other countries in the European Union, the new report showed. Imports from eurozone countries dropped 0.2 percent, while rising 3 percent from other European Union countries.

In a separate report, the Economy Ministry said German industrial production dropped 0.6 in December over the previous month. That followed an unexpected decline Thursday in industrial orders, which dropped 0.5 percent during the same period.

Even though opinion surveys have recently showed strong economic sentiment in Germany, the hard numbers on industrial production and exports tell a different story, said ING economist Carsten Brzeski.

"Today's numbers were another illustration that the economy did not stage the expected year-end-sprint but rather slowed down," he said in a research note.

The German economy grew by a modest 0.4 percent in 2013 but growth is expected to accelerate this year.