May 10 (Bloomberg) -- German exports rose in March, adding to signs that Europe’s largest economy is starting to recover from a contraction at the end of last year.
Exports, adjusted for working days and seasonal changes, advanced 0.5 percent from February, when they dropped 1.2 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. The increase matched the median forecast of 16 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports rose 0.8 percent from February.
Industrial production and factory orders both increased more than forecast in March and unemployment remains near a two-decade low. That suggests the economy is starting to grow again after an unusually long winter delayed its recovery from a 0.6 percent contraction in the final quarter of 2012.
“The latest data from Germany are pretty strong,” said Marco Valli, chief euro-area economist at UniCredit Global Research in Milan. “I think recession fears are overdone, Germany may become the growth engine for the euro area once again.”
Germany’s HeidelbergCement AG, the world’s third-largest maker of cement, said on May 8 that first-quarter earnings rose 3.3 percent as North American growth and job cuts helped offset harsh winter conditions that impeded building in Europe.
Germany’s trade surplus increased to 18.8 billion euros ($24.5 billion) from 16.8 billion euros in February. The surplus in the current account, a measure of all trade including services, climbed to 20.2 billion euros from 18 billion euros.
The European Commission last week cut its economic projections for the euro area, Germany’s biggest export market. It predicts the euro economy will shrink 0.4 percent this year after a 0.6 percent contraction in 2012. By contrast, the Bundesbank forecasts 0.4 percent growth in Germany this year.
The European Central Bank on May 2 cut its benchmark rate to a record low of 0.5 percent and President Mario Draghi said the ECB stands ready to act again if economic data worsen.
“The risks surrounding the economic outlook for the euro area continue to be on the downside,” he said.
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