Falling euro-zone exports push back revival hopes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 4:35am

Euro-area exports decreased in April for the first time in four months, as the 17-nation currency bloc struggled to emerge from a record-long recession.

Exports declined a seasonally adjusted 0.8 per cent from March, when they increased a revised 2.6 per cent, the European Union's statistics office said yesterday. April imports grew 0.5 per cent after a 1.2 per cent drop, and the trade surplus narrowed to €16.1 billion (HK$166.6 billion).

"These numbers are a small setback," said Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist at ING Group. "You cannot say that exports are a real growth driver at the moment. To see a more sustainable recovery of the euro zone, we'll have to wait for the second half of this year."

The European Central Bank this month cut its forecast for the euro-area's economy to show contraction of 0.6 per cent this year from an estimate of 0.5 per cent in March. ECB president Mario Draghi said that while the economy should stabilise "at a subdued pace" this year, "downside risks" remained, including possible weaker-than-expected domestic and global demand for euro-area goods.

Exports from Germany, Europe's largest economy, grew 3 per cent in April to €41.9 billion, the report showed. French shipments increased 0.2 per cent, while Italian and Spanish exports decreased 2.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

The trade data followed a discouraging report on euro-zone retail sales, which fell 0.5 per cent in April. While an index of manufacturing activity based on a survey of purchasing managers rose to a 15-month high in May, it has been below the level indicating contraction since July 2011, London-based Markit Economics said.