Euro-Area Exports Rose for the First Time in Three Months

Euro-area exports increased in November for the first time in three months, even as the 17-nation currency bloc was mired in its second recession in four years.

Exports rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent from October, when they dropped a revised 1.2 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. Imports fell 1.5 percent and the trade surplus widened to 11 billion euros ($14.7 billion) from a revised 7.4 billion euros in the previous month.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi last week held off doling out more recession-fighting medicine, saying the euro-area economy may find its way to “a gradual recovery” later this year. Economic sentiment in the euro area increased more than expected in December and business confidence in Germany, the region’s largest economy, rose for a second month.

“I expect the recession to end in the second quarter of this year and a further recovery from there on,” said Peter Leonhardt, an economist at Dekabank in Frankfurt. “It seems the worst is behind us.”

German exports outside the European Union fell 0.4 percent in November when adjusted for seasonal swings, while imports dropped 9.7 percent, today’s report showed. Shipments from France and Italy grew 2.9 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

‘Significant Improvement’

Germany’s economy, Europe’s largest, may have shrunk as much as 0.5 percent in the final quarter of 2012 as the sovereign debt crisis and weaker global growth damped exports and company investment, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today in a preliminary estimate.

Euro-area industrial production unexpectedly dropped in November and the currency bloc’s economy may have contracted for a third quarter from October through December. At the same time, the ECB sees “a significant improvement in financial market conditions and a broad stabilization of market indicators,” Draghi said on Jan. 10.

European stock markets have rallied after Draghi said in July he’d do everything within his power to save the euro. He announced an unlimited bond-buying program, dubbed Outright Monetary Transactions, in September.

German carmaker Volkswagen AG said yesterday its deliveries in 2012 rose 11 percent to 9.07 million vehicles. It “was the best sales year ever,” Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said.

Job Cuts

The Frankfurt-based central bank last week kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.75 percent in a unanimous decision.

Still, the ECB forecasts the euro-area economy will shrink 0.3 percent this year and some companies are warning about tougher competition and more uncertainty.

Siemens AG said on Dec. 19 it is eliminating 1,100 jobs at two energy units in Germany, preparing for years of subdued demand for gas-fired turbines made at its Berlin plant as competition increases and utilities hesitate to invest.

Schaeffler AG, the roller-bearing maker that is the biggest investor in car-parts manufacturer Continental AG, last month lowered its 2012 sales forecast because of weaker demand in Europe and Asia.

Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is “far from over,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year’s speech on Dec. 31. At the same time, progress has been made and the “reforms that we’ve agreed on are starting to take effect.”

The euro region’s jobless rate rose to a record 11.8 percent in November. In Germany, plant and machinery orders fell for the first time in three months in November amid weak domestic and foreign demand, the VDMA machine-makers’ association said on Jan. 10.

“We are still waiting for the ’real’ economy to follow significant improvements in financial markets,” said Martin Van Vliet, an economist at ING Groep NV in Amsterdam. “The economic situation is difficult but the upturn in confidence gives hope for the months to come.”

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