UPDATE 1-Rising exports from the periphery help boost euro zone trade surplus in Nov

Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:56am EST

* Nov exports down 2 pct y/y, imports down 5 pct y/y
    * Jan-Nov trade surplus more than doubles on the year
    * Euro zone southern periphery regains competitiveness


    By Martin Santa
    BRUSSELS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The euro zone trade surplus
widened in November because imports fell more sharply than
exports, although shipments from the southern periphery rose in
a sign that the bloc's worst-hit economies are regaining
competitiveness.
    Exports from Spain, Portugal and Greece were up by 4 percent
in the January to November period, compared to a year earlier,
data from the EU's statistics office showed on Wednesday, and
cumulative trade deficits shrank in all three year-on-year.
    That adds to signs that those countries that have struggled
over the past few years to contain high debt levels via harsh
austerity measures and to pull their economies out of recession
are starting to improve.
    "It is encouraging that Spain, Portugal and Greece achieved
export growth, which suggests that they are benefiting from
improved competitiveness due to the reduced labour costs,"
Archer said.
    Exports from the euro zone as a whole fell by 2 percent on
the year in November after a 1 percent rise in October, while
imports dropped by 5 percent, following a 3 percent contraction
in October.
    That resulted in an external trade surplus, unadjusted for
seasonal swings, of 17.1 billion euros ($23.41 billion), in line
with economists expectations.
    The surplus increased from a revised 16.8 billion euros in
October.
    While exports overall fell back, the pick-up in the
periphery coupled with euro zone industrial output data on
Tuesday showing the fastest increase in November in nearly four
years suggested the currency bloc was gaining momentum.
    "There are currently signs that euro zone recovery is
gaining some traction and improving global growth over the
coming months would really help matters by lifting euro zone
exports and supporting business confidence," said Howard Archer,
chief European economist at IHS.
    The United Kingdom remains the euro zone's main trading
partner with cumulative exports for the January to November
period up by 3 percent and imports down by 2 percent.
    Exports to China, the bloc's third-biggest trade partner
after the second United States, were flat in the first 11 months
of last year while imports fell 6 percent, leaving a 69 billion
euro trade deficit.
    Germany's trade surplus rose in the first 11 months of the
year, with flat exports and a 1 percent drop in imports, while
France's deficit, shrinking year-on-year, was mainly due to a
decline in imports.
    French President Francois Hollande outlined a new reform
package on Tuesday to revive the euro zone's second-largest
economy by cutting corporate taxes, labour costs and public
spending.
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