Berlin (munichNOW Business / dpa) – German exports grew at their fastest pace in nearly two years in January and imports surged as Europe’s biggest economy bounded into the new year, data released Tuesday showed.

Monthly exports rose by a bigger-than-forecast 2.2 per cent – the highest since May 2012 – after slumping 0.9 per cent in December, the Federal Statistics Office said. Analysts had expected a 1.5-per-cent gain in January.

Production at Infineon near Munich in Bavaria -- photo: dpa
Production at Infineon near Munich in Bavaria — photo: dpa

Imports jumped by 4.1 per cent – more than double the expected percentage increase – helped by strong demand in Germany for goods from key eurozone trading partners.

This resulted in the seasonally adjusted trade surplus narrowing to 17.2 billion euros (24 billion dollars) from a revised 18.3 billion euros in December.

“Looking ahead, the German economy should gain further momentum,” said ING Bank economist Carsten Brzeski.

The rebound in imports from a 1.4-per-cent fall in December also underlined the strength of domestic demand in Germany at the start of the new year.

“This points to a further pick-up in Germany’s domestic economy,” said BayernLB economist Stefan Kipar.

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The trade data was a further indication of the rosy economic prospects that have emerged in Germany in recent weeks.

The Ministry of Economics said last week that German industrial production posted its third consecutive monthly gain in January, while factory orders rebounded by a more-than-forecast 1.2 per cent.

Unemployment fell for the third consecutive month in February, dropping by a more-than-forecast 14,000 to 2.914 million after declining by 28,000 in January, the labour office said.

While business confidence climbed to its highest level in more than two-and-a-half years last month, consumer confidence is set to hit a seven-year high this month, according to a forward-looking indicator.

Helping to drive consumer confidence in Germany has been a rise in wages, with hourly rates increasing by 2.4 per cent on 2012, the statistics office said in a separate release.

The German government said last month that it sees the economy expanding by 1.8 per cent this year and 2 per cent in 2015, boosted by strong domestic demand.

Exports were up 2.9 per cent in January compared with the same month in 2013, while imports climbed 1.5 per cent, Tuesday’s trade data showed.

But the figures also showed the first signs of the impact on German exports of financial market turmoil in emerging economies.

German exports to the eurozone rose 3.2 per cent year on year in January, and exports to nations outside Europe fell 0.4 per cent compared with the same month in 2013.

German imports from the eurozone jumped 4 per cent year on year, the statistics office said.

BMW, Dingolfing -- photo: dpa
BMW, Dingolfing — photo: dpa