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Spanish Exports Increased in January as Euro Economy Stabilizes

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Spanish exports rose for the first time in three months in January, suggesting that foreign trade will cushion a recession in the euro area’s fourth-largest economy.

Exports increased to 17.9 billion euros ($23.1 billion) from 17.8 billion euros in December, the Economy Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. Exports rose 7.9 percent from a year earlier.

Business confidence in Spain increased for a sixth month in February, even as the economy remains mired in recession, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy signaled this week that he may cut his forecast for an economic contraction of 0.5 percent in 2013. The euro area, Spain’s largest export market, is already stabilizing and the recovery the European Central Bank predicts for the second half of the year should also support the Spanish economy.

Spain is waiting for the European Commission to propose new deficit targets before presenting an updated budget plan through 2014. The goals are currently 4.5 percent of gross domestic product for 2013 and 2.8 percent for next year. That compares with a shortfall of 9.99 percent in 2012, or 6.74 excluding European aid for the country’s banking sector.

The nation’s trade deficit in January narrowed 4.3 percent from a year ago to 3.5 billion euros, as imports rose 5.7 percent. The commission said on Feb. 22 that net exports are the only source of growth on the horizon for Spain as it predicted a 4.2 percent increase in foreign sales this year after 3.1 percent in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angeline Benoit in Madrid at abenoit4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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