BRUSSELS The euro zone's trade surplus grew more than expected in June from June a year ago, data showed on Monday, but the improved surplus does not yet reflect the full effect of sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed by the European Union and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
The international trade balance of the 18 countries sharing the euro grew to 16.8 billion euros ($22.49 billion) in June from 15.7 billion euros in June last year, as exports rose more than imports. It was up from the 15.4 billion euro surplus recorded in May.
Seasonally unadjusted exports rose by 3.0 percent during the year to June after being unchanged in May, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said. Imports were up 2.0 percent, also after being unchanged in May.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, however, exports dropped by 0.5 percent and imports rose by 0.5 percent in June from May.
The European Union imposed sanctions against Russia in July which took effect in August. Several European leaders objected to the sanctions, calling them a threat to the region's fragile recovery.
Exports had helped drive the beginning of the recovery last year. But fighting between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine began to have an effect on the euro zone's 9.6 trillion-euro economy, whose recovery unexpectedly stalled in the second quarter, even before the sanctions.
Exports to Russia, the euro zone's fourth- and European Union's third-largest business partner, fell by 14 percent and 12 percent respectively from January to May.
The United Kingdom remains the euro zone's key business partner, followed by the United States and China, data for the first five months of the year showed.
Among the bloc's five largest economies - Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands - exports rose year on year only in Germany and Italy in the first five months of the year. Imports were up on the year in Germany and Spain.
(1 US dollar = 0.7472 euro)
(Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Larry King)