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German Exports Unexpectedly Dropped in July

Port of Hamburg
An employee stands on board the container ship the Hamburg Express as multicolored freight containers are seen on the ship's deck in the Port of Hamburg at the Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) terminal in Hamburg. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

German exports unexpectedly fell in in July, even as a recovery gathered pace in the 17-nation euro area, its biggest trading partner.

Exports, adjusted for working days and seasonal changes, fell 1.1 percent from June, when they gained 0.6 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists predicted an increase of 0.7 percent, according to the median forecast of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports rose 0.5 percent.

The Bundesbank forecasts that the economy in Germany, which faces elections this month, should “normalize and stabilize” during the rest of the year after expanding 0.7 percent last quarter. The euro area exited its longest-ever recession in the period, and services and manufacturing grew at the fastest pace since June 2011 last month.

“It will be difficult to continue the very rapid pace of growth that we found in the past quarter,” said Hiroki Shimazu, senior market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc in Tokyo. At the same time, “we’ve seen many signs of recovery, from the decrease in unemployment in Spain to good news out of Portugal,” he said.

New Forecasts

Germany’s trade surplus narrowed to 16.1 billion euros ($21.1 billion) in July from a revised 17 billion euros in June, today’s report showed. The surplus in the current account, a measure of all trade including services, shrank to 14.3 billion euros from 17.9 billion euros.

The nation’s factory orders fell 2.7 percent in July from a month earlier, compared with a median forecast of 1 percent in a Bloomberg News survey, data from the Economy Ministry in Berlin showed yesterday. Demand in June had been boosted by bulk orders at the Paris Air Show.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking a third term in Sept. 22 elections, called Germany “an engine of growth” in the only televised election debate between her and Social Democratic challenger Peer Steinbrueck on Sept. 1. Merkel’s Christian Union bloc is leading Steinbrueck’s SPD by 16 percentage points, according to the latest Emnid poll.

Euro-Area Outlook

Hamburger Hafen & Logistik AG, the handler of about 80 percent of containers at Hamburg’s port, raised its 2013 volume forecast in August after increases in Baltic Sea trade and container shipping to the Far East.

The euro-area economy expanded 0.3 percent in the three months through June, led by Germany and snapping six quarters of contraction. Portugal’s government forecasts a return to growth next year after three years of contraction and an unemployment rate of 18.2 percent this year. Spain’s jobless rate fell for the first time in two years in the second quarter, dropping to 26.3 percent from a record 27.2 percent in the previous three months.

While the euro area is recovering, the European Central Bank yesterday maintained its forecast for an economic contraction this year. Gross domestic product will shrink 0.4 percent, compared with a June outlook of 0.6 percent. The ECB lowered its prediction for 2014 to a 1 percent expansion, from 1.1 percent.

“I’m very, very cautious about the recovery,” ECB President Mario Draghi said after the Frankfurt-based central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent. “It’s just the beginning. The shoots are still very, very green.”

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