(Adds dropped word in paragraph 4, to make clear imports rose)
BERLIN, March 9 (Reuters) - German exports to China fell by 6.5% in January compare to the same month a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Office said on Monday, but said the fall could not yet be linked to the coronavirus that hit China’s economy at the start of 2020.
Imports from China fell by just 0.5% on the year in January.
“No clear effects of the coronavirus can be deduced from the results available to date,” the Office said in a statement.
Total German exports were unchanged compared to December, and imports rose 0.5% in seasonally adjusted terms.
China is Germany’s biggest trading partner. Manufacturers depend on both demand and supply chains from China.
Domestic businesses hit by the outbreak include hotels and transport companies. Several international trade fairs have been cancelled, including the ITB Tourism Fair.
Germany promised on Sunday aid to companies hit by demand collapsing as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, while its health minister urged a halt to large public events in the hope of reducing the burden on the healthcare system.
Separate data released on Monday showed German industrial output surged by 3.0% in January, surpassing a Reuters consensus forecast for a rise of 1.7%.
“The 3% increase provides an important buffer: a kind of stockpile for the difficult times ahead,” said Thomas Gitzel, economist at VP Bank Group.
Writing by Paul Carrel Editing by Riham Alkousaa