German exports decline “surprisingly” – a look at the statistics

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The press is currently reporting that German exports are “unexpectedly falling sharply”. In the much-noticed monthly comparison from October to November, they fall by 2.3%. In November 2019 Germany exported goods worth 112.9 billion Euros and imported goods worth 94.6 billion Euros. The year-on-year comparison, which we pay much more attention to (which we simply consider to be more meaningful), shows that exports are falling by 2.9%, as reported today by the Federal Statistical Office. An unexpected decline? If you take a closer look at the table in the course of the last twelve months, you will notice the following for exports: Whether monthly changes or annual changes, percentage increases and decreases are constantly alternating. Long-term clear trends are not really apparent.

What is constant, however, is the rough long-term gap between imports and exports. This is how the German foreign trade surplus is created, which is clearly visible in the following chart. The higher line represents exports. This is what the statisticians say, in extracts in the wording:

The foreign trade balance closed in November 2019 with a surplus of 18.3 billion Euros. In November 2018 the balance in the foreign trade balance had been +20.2 billion Euros. Adjusted for calendar and seasonal factors the surplus also lay at 18.3 billion Euros in November 2019. The current account closed with a surplus of 24.9 billion Euros in November 2019. In November 2018 Germany’s current account showed an asset balance of 23.6 billion Euros.

Außenhandel Chart
Statistik für Exporte und Importe
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