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German exports show mixed results

FRANKFURT, May  8 – German exports fell sharply in March on a 12-month basis, but ticked upwards from February for the first monthly rise since September, another sign the country\’s massive recession might be easing.

Exports plunged by 15.8 percent in March from the same month a year earlier, but gained 0.7 percent from February, ending a five-month string of drops by one of the world\’s leading exporters, figures released Friday by the national statistics office showed.

Analysts welcomed the development, but warned that Germany\’s worst recession for six decades was not over yet.

Imports by the biggest European economy fell by 11.6 percent from March 2008, the Destatis office added in its release of provisional data.

Germany\’s foreign trade balance showed a surplus of 11.3 billion euros (15.1 billion dollars), but that was down from 16.8 billion in March 2008, Destatis said.

The figure was nonetheless better than an average analyst forecast of 8.7 billion euros compiled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Commerzbank analyst Simon Junker said that although the monthly rise in exports "is another glimmer of hope for a stabilisation of the German economy, Germany is still suffering from the collapse of global demand."

From October to February, German exports shrank by "an unbelievable" 22 percent, UniCredit peer Andreas Rees noted.

For the first quarter of 2009, Germany showed a trade surplus of 26.9 billion euros, nearly half the previous year\’s figure of 51.2 billion.

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A surplus in Germany\’s current account, the broadest measure of trade that includes services and financial transfers, fell sharply in March to 10.2 billion euros from 17.6 billion euros in March 2008, Destatis said.

Germany\’s export-orientated economy has been slammed by the global downturn, and is expected to contract by a staggering six percent this year, though the government has raised hopes of a recovery in 2010.

Some good news was reported Thursday, with industrial orders showing the first rise in six months, gaining 3.3 percent in March and providing hard data to back up improvements seen in surveys of consumer and business sentiment.

"The plunge of order intake – especially from abroad – is slowing," Junker said.

Rees added that "signs are clearly mounting that the German patient is on the mend" after a first quarter in which "the German economy showed its worst performance ever."

A breakdown of the March export data showed that German exports to other European Union members decreased by 17.4 percent on the year, while imports shed 11.3 percent.

Exports to non-EU countries were off by 22.5 percent, while imports fell by 12.9 percent.

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