* Exports and imports rise more than forecast
* Some economists see economy contracting in Q2
* Russian crisis not hitting Germany too hard yet
(Adds comment from BGA trade association)
By Michelle Martin
BERLIN, Aug 8 German exports and imports
rebounded in June, suggesting the West's standoff with Russia
over Ukraine is not seriously hurting Europe's largest economy
but failing to dispel concerns of a contraction in the second
Data from the Federal Statistics Office showed seasonally
adjusted imports rose by 4.5 percent in June, their strongest
month-on-month increase since November 2010 and a bounceback
from a sharp drop in May.
Exports rose by 0.9 percent, nearly double the rate expected
by economists in a Reuters poll.
For the second quarter as a whole, the figures showed
exports increasing marginally compared to the first three months
of the year and imports falling.
But even with a marginal boost from trade, some economists
see a chance of a contraction in gross domestic product (GDP)
when data for the second quarter is released next Thursday, and
trade groups are warning of further trouble from the escalating
showdown with Russia.
"Despite the positive result in the first half of the year
we are alarmed by the escalation of the trade conflict with
Russia," said Anton Boerner, head of the BGA trade association,
which represents around 120,000 wholesalers, exporters and
"Conflicts in the Middle East are also overshadowing the
global economy and therefore weighing on German exports."
According to a Reuters poll, the preliminary GDP data is
expected to show the economy stagnated in the second quarter
after powering ahead in early 2014 due to mild weather.
But a growing chorus of economists is now predicting that
the economy could actually contract for the first time since
Other data this week has disappointed, with industrial
orders suffering their sharpest fall in nearly three years due
to weak euro zone demand and below-average bulk orders, and
output undershooting forecasts with only a modest rise.
"(Trade) is unlikely to fully offset the very weak
industrial output data ... meaning that German GDP is likely to
have contracted slightly in the second quarter," said Christian
Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank.
Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING, said net exports
were probably the only growth driver in the second quarter.
On Thursday Russia banned many Western food imports in
response to economic sanctions unveiled by the United States and
Europe over Moscow's support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russian exports, which make up about 3.3 percent of total
German exports, fell by around 15 percent in the first five
months of 2014 compared with the same period last year.
About 10 percent of exporting firms in Germany ship their
goods to Russia and some of them, including defence firm
Rheinmetall and generic drugmaker Stada
warned this week about a hit to business from the standoff
between the West and Moscow.
Some German firms have complained of weak demand in other
overseas regions too. Beiersdorf, makers of Nivea skin
cream, said on Thursday that growth in emerging markets was
stuttering. Truck maker MAN has pointed to falling
orders in major South American markets.
A breakdown of unadjusted data showed exports to the euro
zone climbed by 0.3 percent in June compared to the same period
last year, while exports to countries outside of Europe were
down 0.9 percent.
Germany's trade surplus narrowed to 16.2 billion euros from
18.8 billion the previous month. The consensus forecast in a
Reuters poll had been for it to shrink to 17.5 billion euros.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Noah Barkin)