Germany feels debt crisis edging in as both imports and exports fall
GERMAN imports tumbled at their fastest rate in two years in April and exports fell, adding to evidence that Europe's largest economy is beginning to feel the chill from the eurozone debt crisis.
But while Germany has struggled to find buyers among its partners in the eurozone and has been importing less from countries including crisis-stricken Greece, its sales to non-European markets have surged.
Germany is the largest exporter in the eurozone. Ireland is the third largest although we export more per head of population.
The trade figures fuel concerns that Germany's immunity to the crisis is weakening and come as a blow to struggling euro zone countries that are looking to the bloc's dominant economy to buy more of their goods and offset the impact of the region's debt crisis.
Overall exports slid for the first time since December 2011, falling 1.7pc, seasonally adjusted data from the Federal Statistics Office showed yesterday. A Reuters poll had shown expectations of a 1pc decline, and economists said exports were likely to fall further.
Exports to other eurozone countries fell 3.6pc year-on-year in April, but that was cushioned by a 10.3pc jump on the year in exports to other regions.
"The companies' orders situation has got worse because of the problems in the eurozone. That is now reflected in exports," said Stefan Schilbe of HSBC Trinkaus. "Foreign trade will no longer contribute to growth this year."
France's output shrank slightly in the first quarter, the Bank of France said yesterday, underlining the challenges to Francois Hollande's campaign to spur growth in the bloc's second biggest economy.
The euro zone's debtors are also looking to Berlin to soften its strict conditions for any bailouts.
But Bundesbank data showed exports to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy now account for only 11pc of Germany's overall exports compared with 16pc in 1991. (Reuters)