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Business

German trade enters second quarter weaker

The start of the second quarter saw German exports stagnate on weak demand from China and emerging markets. Although the data beat forecasts predicting decline, analysts warn that slow trade is unlikely to pick up soon.

The Federal Statistics Office said Thursday exports in April remained unchanged from the previous month, beating forecasts of an 0.8 percent decline for the month.

However, the figure was a far cry from the solid 1.9 percent export growth in March.

Worries on slumping domestic demand also emerged anew, as import figures slipped by 0.2 percent in April, declining for the second month in a row.

Stefan Schilbe, chief economist of HSBC Trinkaus pointed to the recent gains in oil prices impacting private consumption.

He added, "domestic investment activity is also low. It’s missing as a pillar for imports."

And exports are unlikely to improve significantly in the short-term, according to analysts.

"The time of Germany’s export boom is at an end, for now. The exports are showing a rather gloomy picture, " said Thomas Gitzel, chief economist of the VP Bank. "Sluggish export development is, however, not a sign of German products losing competitiveness, rather it’s an indication of ailing global trade. Even other export heavyweights like China are struggling with their exports. "

ING-DiBa analyst Carsten Brzeski said that after strong first quarter growth, "all hard data for April were weaker than in the first quarter" and that GDP growth looked "set for a slowdown".

Other observers, while less downbeat, cautioned that demand from emerging economies would have to pick up for Germany’s trade figures to return to a healthier state.

"World trade was markedly weak in the first quarter. Now it’s starting to stabilize," said Stefan Schilbe, HSCBC Trinkaus. "That would help German exporters. But momentum is still slow. For a sustained revival, it would be important to have new impetus from the emerging markets. "

jd/uhe (DPA, Reuters)

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