Exports of goods from the 17 countries that made up the euro area in November totalled €160.8bn (£133bn), Eurostat said yesterday, down two per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.
Yet imports of goods fell more sharply, down five per cent from €152bn in November 2012 to €143.7bn a year later, resulting in the overall surplus growing to €17.1bn.
Latvia joined the single currency at the start of this year, yet its trade balance – a deficit of €2bn from January to October last year – will be too small, relatively, to have a significant effect on the data.
Despite weaker demand across the bloc, a growing surplus bodes well for Eurozone GDP. “November’s increased surplus lifts hopes that net trade made a renewed overall positive contribution to Eurozone GDP in the fourth quarter of 2013,” said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.
“While lower imports point to limited Eurozone domestic demand, the figure may have been affected significantly by an easing back in oil prices from late-August/early-September peak levels.”
The single currency’s prospects were also boosted by better figures from troubled member states such as Spain, Portugal and Greece. All three of these countries registered a four per cent jump in exports during the January to October period last year, compared to one year earlier.
French exports fell by one per cent, while Germany’s were flat. Meanwhile in a separate data release yesterday, Germany’s GDP growth for last year was estimated to have been just 0.4 per cent, the weakest expansion since 2009.