German Exports Rose in December to Cap Trillion-Euro Year

German exports rose in December, capping a record year even as the sovereign debt crisis weighed on euro-area demand.

Exports, adjusted for working days and seasonal changes, increased 0.3 percent from November, when they fell 2.2 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists forecast a 1.4 percent increase, according to the median of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Exports rose 3.4 percent in 2012 to a record 1.1 trillion euros ($1.47 trillion), the office said.

Export growth has slowed as the debt crisis damps sales within the euro area, prompting German companies to target faster-growing markets in Asia. The economy, Europe’s largest, is showing signs of recovering from a fourth-quarter slump as the debt crisis eases. Investor and business confidence improved more than forecast in January and the unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent, matching a two-decade low.

“Strongly improved business sentiment backs our expectations of a gradual improvement throughout the first quarter,” said Alexander Koch, an economist at UniCredit Group in Munich.

Trade Balance

Imports fell 1.3 percent in December, today’s report showed. The trade balance narrowed to 12 billion euros from 16.9 billion euros in November. At 188.1 billion euros in 2012, the annual trade surplus was the second-highest since records began in 1950, the statistics office said. The surplus in the current account, a measure of all trade including services, was 17.3 billion euros, up from 16.2 billion euros in November.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled yesterday that policy makers are concerned the recent appreciation of the euro may threaten the 17-nation economy’s recovery later this year.

The exchange rate “is important for growth and price stability,” Draghi said. “We want to see if the appreciation is sustained, and if it alters our assessment of the risks to price stability.”

The euro, which rose to a 14-month high above $1.37 earlier this month, fell to $1.3390 today.

The ECB expects the euro-area economy to contract 0.3 percent this year while the Bundesbank predicts the German economy will grow 0.4 percent.

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