* Euro zone May trade surplus widens to 15.2 bln euros
* Euro zone inflation confirmed at 1.6 pct in June
By Martin Santa
BRUSSELS, July 16 The euro zone's trade surplus
widened in May from a year earlier, driven mainly by falling
imports rather than export growth, the EU's statistics office
Eurostat said on Tuesday.
Eurostat also confirmed June annual inflation at 1.6
percent, pushed upward by volatile energy and food prices, from
1.4 percent in May.
The trade surplus for the 17 countries using the euro,
unadjusted for seasonal swings, rose to 15.2 billion euros
($19.8 billion) in May, from a revised 14.1 billion euro surplus
Overall exports were flat on the year in May, with imports
decreasing by 6 percent.
The malaise in imports underscores the euro zone's struggle
to revive domestic demand that is hampered by record
unemployment, reluctance among consumers to spend and companies
that are struggling to access credit and invest.
Imports fell in the bloc's four largest economies, with
Germany reporting a 1 percent drop, France declining by 2
percent, Spain down 4 percent and Italy sliding 6 percent.
Trade with China fell on the year in May, on a
non-seasonally adjusted basis, while exports to the United
States increased by 2 percent, with imports down by 7 percent.
Inflation, meanwhile, remains below the European Central
Bank's target of close to but below 2 percent.
The ECB left its key interest rate at a record low in July
and broke a taboo never to pre-commit on rates, saying it would
leave monetary policy loose for an extended period of time to
help an expected recovery later this year.
The ECB sees exports, low interest rates around the world
and less volatility on financial markets as helping the euro
zone leave behind its longest recession since the creation of
the single currency in 1999.