Soaring imports pushed the Eurozone trade deficit to €14.8bn (£12.9bn) in January, new data from the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat have shown.
The deficit jumped from €500m in December and beat economists’ forecasts for a €9bn gap. The deficit in January 2010 was €9.7bn.
The figures improved when seasonally adjusted, however, with the trade deficit shrinking to €3.3bn, though it still increased from the €1.1bn figure in December.
Global Insight chief economist Howard Archer said the growth in the value of imports was likely to be due to higher prices for energy and food rather than higher domestic demand.
But Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said the growth could be a combination of renewed restocking by companies as well as growing consumer expenditure in countries such as Germany.
Eurozone exports grew 3.6 per cent in January compared with December – and 27 per cent on January 2010.
But imports grew faster, showing a 5.3 per cent rise in January month-on-month and 29.3 per cent year-on-year when seasonally adjusted.
“A bigger than expected widening of the Eurozone trade deficit in January should not distract from some very encouraging news on exports, which showed growth surging higher as new sales were won in the US and emerging markets in particular,” said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
He said exports in the past three months were 2.1 per cent up on the previous three months, “signalling a reassuring re-acceleration of growth for the third month running.”