* German trade surplus is highest on record
* Exports rose to all partners, imports fell
* Data could fan criticism of export-dependency
By Annika Breidthardt
BERLIN, Nov 8 Germany's trade surplus rose to a
record high in September as exports climbed across the board,
data showed on Friday, at a time when Europe's largest economy
has come under fire for relying too heavily on foreign trade.
The seasonally adjusted trade surplus widened to 18.8
billion euros from a revised 15.8 billion in August, surpassing
the consensus forecast for it to narrow to 15.5 billion. Until
now the record had been 18.7 billion in September 2007.
International criticism has mounted - especially from
Washington - that Europe's bulwark economy must do more to spur
domestic demand and that its reliance on exports is hampering
Europe's economic stability and hurting the global economy.
"The record surplus is likely to add fuel to the flames, but
I don't see a problem in them," said Stefan Schilbe of HSBC
Trinkaus, highlighting the differences of views on both sides of
"With a certain delay, German companies will increase their
capacities, which will help our trade partners because more
goods and services will be bought from there."
The U.S. administration reprimanded Germany in strong terms
late last month in its semi-annual report to Congress for its
economic imbalances. Germany's current account surplus, at 19.7
billion euros in September, is the biggest in the world.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso used
softer language in Frankfurt this week but his message was
similar: Germany had "homework" to do on stability in the euro
Conservative politicians in Germany, which has taken over
the spotlight from China, were quick to reject the criticism
though Chancellor Angela Merkel's likely future coalition
partner agreed more must be done to spur domestic demand.
Seasonally-adjusted exports gained a forecast-beating 1.7
percent on the month, the Federal Statistics Office data showed,
while imports, expected to rise 0.6 percent, fell 1.9 percent.
Exports rose to all trade partners but particularly to the
European Union, which bought 5.4 percent more goods and services
from Germany. Exports to the euro zone rose by 4.4 percent,
while to non-euro zone states they climbed 7.2 percent.
"The economy is getting help from foreign trade," said Ralph
Solveen at Commerzbank. "But I would not cheer massively yet
because the previous months were just too bad for that."
The U.S. Treasury may feel vindicated by the data. Its
criticisms come at a sensitive time in bilateral relations with
tempers already running high after reports that the United
States secretly monitored Merkel's mobile phone.
Germany received indirect backing on Thursday from European
Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi when he said economic imbalances
in the euro zone should be overcome without weakening the bloc's
Germany argues it has more than halved its current account
surplus with the euro zone as a share of gross domestic product
since 2007. Trade is expected to subtract from rather than
contribute to economic growth in 2013, while domestic demand,
albeit still weak, will drive Germany's modest expansion.