THE EUROZONE’S trade with the rest of the world showed surprising strength in February, driven by French and German exports of cars and machinery, official figures showed yesterday.
However, imports remained relatively weak as European households struggled through the bloc’s economic slump.
Exports from the 17 countries surged 11 per cent to give a trade surplus of €2.8bn, from a deficit of €2.8bn in February 2011, Eurostat revealed.
Foreign demand for the Eurozone’s goods offer the bloc its best chance of pulling out of recession this year, economists believe, as rising unemployment and the impact of the public debt crisis sap business confidence and bank credit at home.
Imports rose seven per cent in February, mainly due to demand for Russian oil and gas during a sharp cold snap in February.
Adjusted for seasonal swings, the Eurozone posted an even larger trade surplus of €3.7bn, continuing a trend in positive territory.
The currency area’s economy is expected to shrink about 0.3 per cent this year, its second recession in just three years, but the slump masks wide divergences in the bloc’s fortunes, with Germany and France likely to escape recession.
“The balance of growth-related data continues to support a picture of flattish GDP growth during the first half, although one of significant divergence,” said Unicredit economist Erik Nielsen. “German growth remains robust, while peripheral GDP continues to contract.”