BERLIN (Reuters) – German exports rose in February but trade with China slowed sharply as Europe’s largest economy felt the initial effects of a coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Statistical Office said on Thursday.
Seasonally adjusted exports increased by 1.3% during the month while imports fell by 1.6%. The trade surplus widened to 21.6 billion euros from an upwardly revised 18.7 billion euros in the previous month, the Statistics Office said.
Economists surveyed by Reuters expected exports to fall 0.9% and imports to fall 0.7%. The trade surplus is estimated at 17.5 billion euros.
The Statistics Office said exports to China fell 8.9% that year, while imports from China fell 12.0% that year.
German manufacturers depend on demand and supply chains from China, Germany’s largest trading partner. Economists expect the virus to emerge in data from February and push the economy into sharp contraction.
Germany’s leading think tank said on Wednesday that the economy might shrink by 9.8% in the second quarter, the biggest decline since records began in 1970, due to measures put in place to slow the spread of the corona novel virus.
That will more than double the decline seen in the first quarter of 2009, during the global financial crisis, the economic agency said.
Germany has been locked for several weeks. Schools, shops, restaurants, sports facilities and other insignificant businesses have been closed and many companies have stopped production to help slow the spread of the disease.
The agency said the unprecedented 750 billion euro ($ 814.80 billion) stimulus package approved last month to reduce the impact of the pandemic would see the ratio of debt to German output rise to 70% this year from around 60% before the crisis.
($ 1 = 0.9205 euros)
(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Martin)
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