Germany drove its trade surplus up to 15.2 billion euros (US$22 billion) in March, official data showed on May 9 as sustained global activity fuelled record exports by Europe's economic powerhouse.
In February, the calendar and seasonally adjusted trade surplus had come to 11.2 billion euros, figures published by the national statistics office showed. Germany exported goods worth a nominal 98.3 billion euros in March while taking in imports worth 79.4 billion euros, the Destatis data showed.
"That was the highest monthly figure recorded for both exports and imports since the collection of foreign trade statistics had started in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1950," a statement said.
On a monthly basis, exports were 7.3% stronger and imports were up by 3.1%.
"The 'made in Germany' brand is extremely popular abroad," said Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle. Though the late Easter should have been an important factor here, this number is indeed very strong," Commerzbank analyst Ulrike Rondorf added in reference to the export figure, the biggest monthly gain since May 2010.
On an annualized basis, the value of goods shipped abroad by Germany, the world's second-biggest exporter after China, gained 15.8% in March, while imports were 16.9% higher, Destatis said.
Citing data provided by Germany's central bank, it said the current account of the balance of payments, a broader measure of trade, showed a surplus of 19.5 billion euros in March, up from 18.8 billion a year ago.
"Since the trough of the recession, exports have increased by more than 30%, returning to their pre-crisis level," ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski noted.
A breakdown of the data showed that the biggest 12-month gain in exports was a 20% increase to countries outside the European Union.
"Looking ahead, exports should remain a reliable source for growth, even if the pace of export growth is about to slow down," Brzeski said.
Last week, the federation of German machine tool manufacturers, VDMA, said orders for their products, which are highly prized in emerging economies, grew further in the first quarter of 2011, though the pace slowed slightly. A breakdown of that data showed foreign orders gained 31%.
German auto makers have also reported a string of strong results this year, with BMW and Audi in particular looking to sell more than 1.5 million and 1.2 million vehicles this year, respectively.
Overall however, German industrial orders declined by a surprise 4% in March from February, the first fall this year, official figures showed on May 5. High prices for energy and other commodities have begun to sap global activity, and the pace of growth is forecast to slow later this year.
The German government now expects the economy to expand by 2.6% this year, and by 1.8% in 2012.
Commerzbank's Rondorf said: "We remain very comfortable with our forecast that the German economy will grow by 3.0% in 2011."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011