* German exports up 1.9 pct, imports up 2.3 pct
* Bundesbank cuts 2013 economic growth forecast to 0.3 pct
* Data points to some trade rebalancing in euro zone
By Michelle Martin and Sakari Suoninen
BERLIN/FRANKFURT, June 7 German trade activity
rose sharply in April, but a cut in the Bundesbank's growth
forecast dampened hopes that Europe's largest economy might be
Exports rose 1.9 percent and imports by 2.3 percent, Federal
Statistics Office data showed on Friday, offering some
encouragement to other euro zone states aiming to export their
way out of the region's crisis.
But Germany's central bank said that, after a second-quarter
surge, the economy could slow considerably, cutting its 2013
growth forecast by 0.1 percentage points to 0.3 percent and its
estimate for 2014 growth to 1.5 percent from 1.9 percent.
The Bundesbank's 2013 prediction brought it into line with
the International Monetary Fund, which halved its forecast for
Germany on Monday.
The cut was "due mainly to downward revisions with regard to
the external environment", the Bundesbank said, forecasting that
exports could fall by 0.8 percent from last year.
Capital Economics economist Jennifer McKeown called the
trade data encouraging but said a recent rise in the euro
"doesn't bode well for Germany given that it exports quite a lot
to outside the currency area."
Imports from the currency bloc rose a healthy 5.4 percent in
April, the statistics data showed.
But the overall German picture on imports was still very
weak due to a lack of investment, McKeown said, so "any hopes
that Germany is about to provide a massive boost to peripheral
(euro zone) countries are far too optimistic."
Private consumption, supported by wage hikes, moderate
inflation and low unemployment, was the driving force behind
German growth in the first quarter. But the economy expanded
only 0.1 percent, meaning it barely avoided recession after
shrinking in late 2012.
Germany's traditionally export-driven economy is relying on
domestic demand to prop up growth as foreign trade looks likely
to act a drag this year, given that much of the euro zone, where
it sends 40 percent of its exports, is lingering in recession.
Friday's healthy export figures contrasted with more
downbeat recent data.
Industrial orders dropped 2.3 percent in April as demand for
capital goods at home and abroad weakened, and a survey earlier
this week showed new manufacturing export orders declined
slightly for a third straight month in May.
The Bundesbank warned on Friday that German exporters' sales
markets would only expand by 1.25 percent this year, which it
said was considerably lower than global trade growth.
German firms are looking to China and other non-European
countries as alternative markets to boost their sales, and
unadjusted trade data showed exports to the euro zone rose by
4.3 percent in April and by 13.6 percent to countries outside
Continental AG has said improving markets in North
America should help lift first-half sales to match year-ago
levels and BASF announced it would go on a hiring
spree in the Asia Pacific region as it aims to double sales to
customers there by 2020.
Friday's import and export numbers were both well above
The seasonally-adjusted trade surplus widened slightly to
17.7 billion euros from 17.6 billion in March. The consensus
forecast was for it to narrow to 17.2 billion euros.
Recent data has painted a mixed picture of the German
economy. Sentiment surveys have improved and the private sector
has expanded slightly but orders have slumped, unemployment has
edged up and retail sales have fallen.