* Exports suffer steepest fall in 10 months
* Trade surplus slips to 14.8 billion euros
* Weak trade data follows poor industrial orders in March
(Adds economist comment, details)
BERLIN, May 9 German exports posted their
biggest fall in nearly a year in March and imports also dipped
as the crisis in Ukraine and a slowdown in China weighed,
narrowing the trade surplus and confirming trade was a drag on
growth at the start of 2014.
Figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed
seasonally-adjusted exports slipped 1.8 percent on the month,
their second consecutive fall, and imports dipped 0.9 percent,
pushing the trade surplus down to 14.8 billion euros.
The consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists had
been for shipments abroad to rise by 1 percent and for imports
to increase by 0.5 percent.
The seasonally adjusted trade balance compared with a
surplus of 15.8 billion euros in February. Economists had
expected a surplus of 16.6 billion euros in March.
"As already reflected in other industrial data, the month
March saw a stronger real economic impact from the Ukrainian
crisis and the Chinese slowdown than confidence indicators had
suggested," said ING economist Carsten Brzeski.
"All in all, with ongoing geopolitical problems and the
slowing emerging economies, it looks as if Germany's famous
export engine could still be sputtering for a while," he added.
In the first two months of 2014, German exports to Russia
dropped by 16 percent. Detailed data for March will not be
available until later in the month.
The government expects domestic demand to drive growth this
year while foreign trade, which has traditionally propelled the
German economy, is expected to be a drag.
A breakdown of unadjusted data showed exports to the euro
zone edging up 0.1 percent in March compared to the previous
year and imports from the single currency bloc rose 2.3 percent.
Exports to European Union member states outside of the euro
such as Great Britain rose 10.4 percent however and imports rose
Germany's current account balance surged in March to 19.5
billion euros from 13.8 billion euros the previous month, a
development which could stoke criticism of Germany for not doing
more to stoke domestic demand.
"We are ending the first quarter on a weak note," said
economist Holger Sandte at Nordea. First quarter GDP figures are
due next week and are expected to show the economy grew by 0.8
percent in the first quarter.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Noah Barkin)