BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The euro zone's trade surplus grew more than expected in September as imports were flat and exports rose, data from the European Union statistics office Eurostat showed on Monday.
The trade surplus for the 17 countries sharing the euro, unadjusted for seasonal swings, was 13.1 billion euros ($17.65 billion) in September, compared with 8.6 billion euro surplus in the same period last year.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected a 10 billion euro surplus in September.
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the trade surplus was 14.3 billion euros as exports rose 1 percent from August to September and imports fell 0.3 percent.
Non-seasonally adjusted, exports rose 3 percent on the year in September following a 6 percent drop in August, while imports were flat in September after a 7 percent drop in the previous month.
The cumulative surplus of the euro zone for the first nine months of the year more than doubled on the year to 109.6 billion euros, compared with 50.2 billion euro surplus in the same period of 2012.
The euro zone recovery almost stalled in the third quarter after a return to growth in the second quarter, as France failed to sustain a rebound in the July to September period, underscoring how fragile the economic repair remain.
The southern periphery, suffering from record joblessness, weak growth and painful austerity, continued to improve their trade balance as their competitiveness gets on a more sound footing.
Portugal, heading for an exit from its bailout next year, saw exports up by 3 percent in the first eight months of the year, while exports in Spain, due to end its program by the end of the year, and Greece rose by 5 percent.
Germany, Europe's largest economy, saw imports down by 1 percent and imports falling by 2 percent on the year in the January to August period. For further details double click on: here
($1 = 0.7421 euros
(Reporting by Martin Santa)