Economy & Finance

Euro zone posts February trade surplus on lower imports

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The euro zone’s trade surplus grew in February, but the positive balance was helped by lower demand for imports rather than export growth, data from the European Union statistics office Eurostat showed on Monday.

The trade surplus for the 17 countries sharing the euro, unadjusted for seasonal swings, was 10.4 billion euros in February.

This was greater than the 3.0 billion surplus consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters.

The statistics office also revised January’s figure to a deeper deficit of 4.7 billion euros, from a previous 3.9 billion.

Although the euro zone showed a trade surplus, this was mainly due to reduced demand for imports, showing the bloc’s difficulty of increasing domestic demand as it lingers in a second year of recession.

The value of goods imported by euro zone countries from outside the bloc decreased by 7 percent in February versus February 2012.

For the month of January, Eurostat’s latest available month of full data, the euro zone’s energy deficit decreased slightly from a year ago to 30.0 billion euros from 30.7 billion.

Exports in goods like cars and chemicals rose during the same period, posting a 2.6 billion euro increase year-on-year.

Europe’s largest economy Germany started the year with the bloc’s largest trade surplus in January, of 13.6 billion euros, on an unadjusted basis.

Countries under European Union and International Monetary Fund emergency funding programs showed mixed performances.

On an annualized basis, Portugal narrowed its trade deficit to 0.6 billion euros in January from 1.1 billion, but Greece’s trade deficit rose to 1.9 billion from 1.7 billion euros.

Ireland’s trade surplus slipped to 2.3 billion euros versus 3.1 billion a year earlier, with exports falling 12 percent.

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(Reporting By Ethan Bilby- editing by Rex Merrifield)

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