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German trade slumps in May, suggests weak growth

German trade contracted sharply in May, with exports falling more than forecast and imports shrinking at the fastest rate in a year and a half. Analysts say Germany's economy is losing steam after a strong first quarter.

German exports fell 1.1 percent in May and imports were down 3.4 percent over one month prior,

fresh data from the German statistics office, Destatis

, showed Tuesday.

In terms of volume, Germany shipped goods and services worth 92.8 billion euros ($126 billion) abroad in May, while taking in imports to the tune of 74.3 billion euros.

Analysts had expected exports to decline by 0.4 percent in May, after increasing by a hefty 2.6 percent in April. Imports were expected to post a modest 0.5-percent rise to build on the 0.2-percent gain in April.

Volker Treier, foreign trade expert at the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), attributed the drop in trade to weaker export markets and the crisis in Ukraine.

"The conflict between Russia and Ukraine alone has stunted export growth by 0.5 percent so far this year," he told the news agency Reuters. "Moreover, the recovery in emerging market economies has remained weak."

Christian Schulz of Berenberg Bank told the same news agency that the monthly trade figures rounded off a disappointing month in which retail sales figures, industrial orders and

manufacturing output

had already slumped significantly.

Most analysts, however, appeared at ease about the latest figures, saying the downturn was only natural in view of

exceptional German growth in the first quarter of 2014


Between January and April, Europe's biggest economy expanded a strong 0.8 percent, with the country's central bank, the Bundesbank, expecting an

annual growth rate of 1.9 percent for 2014


Despite the significant drop in May, monthly exports were still 4.3 percent higher than in the same month last year. Imports, however, were down 0.4 percent on the year.

uhe/cjc (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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