Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Euro-area exports decreased in July, led by Germany and Italy, as the 17-nation currency bloc continued to struggle with the legacy of a debt crisis now in its fourth year.
Exports from the 17-nation bloc fell a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent from June, when they gained a revised 1.3 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. Shipments from Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, decreased 3.9 percent. The euro-area trade surplus narrowed to 11.1 billion euros ($14.8 billion).
The euro-area economy’s return to growth in the second quarter has been restrained by record unemployment and inflation that has remained below the European Central Bank’s 2 percent ceiling for seven months. Industrial output contracted more than economists forecast in July.
That may help to explain why economists in a Bloomberg News survey see growth slowing to 0.2 percent in the third quarter after a 0.3 percent expansion in the three months through June.
ECB President Mario Draghi on Sept. 5 cited “broad-based weakness in the economy” as a basis for the Governing Council’s expectation that the Frankfurt-based central bank’s benchmark rate will remain “at present or lower levels for an extended period of time.”
The ECB sees a “gradual improvement in economic activity from low levels,” Draghi said.
Exports from France, the second-biggest euro-area economy, rose 1.3 percent in July, while shipments from Italy and Spain declined 2.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
Imports into the euro zone slipped 0.1 percent after a 1.4 percent gain in June, today’s report showed.
European car sales fell in August, bringing deliveries this year to the lowest since records began in 1990, as record joblessness in the euro region hurt deliveries at Volkswagen AG, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat SpA.
European sales by Volkswagen, the region’s largest carmaker, posted an 11 percent drop in sales last month, dragged down by a 17 percent plunge at the namesake VW brand. The Audi division, the world’s second-largest maker of upscale vehicles, sold 6.4 percent fewer cars in Europe.
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