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German Exports Increased for Second Month in December

German Exports Increased Second Month in December
A container ship sits berthed at the Eurogate container terminal in Hamburg. Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

German exports increased for a second month in December as the global recovery boosted demand for goods and services from Europe’s largest economy.

Exports, adjusted for work days and seasonal changes, rose 0.5 percent from November, when they increased 0.5 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists had forecast a gain of 1 percent, according to the median of 16 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports dropped 2.3 percent from November, when they jumped 4.1 percent.

Germany’s economy expanded a record 3.6 percent last year as companies boosted output and hiring to meet orders. With euro-region governments stepping up budget cuts, companies have relied on faster-growing markets to boost orders. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest luxury carmaker, on Feb. 4 forecast “significant” sales growth on Asian demand.

“Exports will remain the main driver of the German economy,” said Ulrike Rondorf, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “While we might see a slight slowdown, Asia and the U.S. should continue to provide some positive momentum.”

The euro was little changed after the report and traded at $1.3635 at 10:36 a.m. in Frankfurt, up from $1.3625 yesterday. The single currency has appreciated 3 percent against the dollar over the past two months.

From a year earlier, German exports rose 21 percent in December, today’s report showed. Shipments to countries within the euro region advanced 20 percent in the year while sales to countries outside the European Union increased 21 percent. In 2010, exports gained 18.5 percent from a year earlier.

Solid Recovery

The trade balance narrowed to 11.9 billion euros ($16.3 billion) from 13.1 billion euros in November. The surplus in the current account, a measure of all trade including services was 17.6 billion euros in December, up from 12.9 billion euros.

Adding to signs the recovery is gathering strength, German business confidence rose to a record last month and investors also became more optimistic. Unemployment declined to an 18-year low in January, pushing the jobless rate to 7.4 percent.

“The recovery stands solidly on two pillars: trade and domestic demand,” German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said in an e-mailed statement today. “That’s a good pre-requisite for a balanced economic development this year.”

BMW Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said last week he sees “double-digit growth” in markets including China, Brazil and Russia, with the U.S. “coming back.” Infineon Technologies AG, Europe’s second-largest chipmaker, on Feb. 1 raised its full-year revenue forecast on surging orders.

‘Full Capacity’

“If sales continue to grow like this, it’ll be difficult to say how long it could take to reduce waiting times,” Audi AG sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer said in an interview yesterday. “We’re working at full capacity at our plants.”

The International Monetary Fund on Jan. 25 forecast the global economy will grow 4.4 percent this year, with U.S. gross domestic product increasing 3 percent and German GDP rising 2.2 percent. The euro-region economy, Germany’s largest export market, may expand 1.5 percent, the Washington-based fund said.

Still, Europe’s debt crisis may curb export growth, said Joerg Lueschow, an economist at WestLB in Dusseldorf.

“Exports to the euro region may soften a bit,” he said. “But the overall outlook remains fairly positive as emerging markets cushion any negative impact.”

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