German exports rise, but hidden problem persists

German exports rose by 1.9% year-on-year in March, while imports rose by 4.5% (and even more). The first chart shows this clearly. The upper line shows exports, the lower line imports. It tends to go up again. In March 2019 Germany exported goods worth 118.3 billion euros and imported goods worth 95.6 billion euros. The foreign trade surplus rises from 18.7 to 20 billion euros. Here are some more details from the Federal Statistical Office:

In March 2019 goods worth 70.5 billion euros were exported to the member states of the European Union (EU) and goods worth 56.6 billion euros were imported from them. Compared to March 2018 exports to EU countries increased by 2.5% and imports from these countries by 5.5%. In March 2019 goods worth 44.5 billion euros (+0.5%) were exported to the euro zone countries and goods worth 36.9 billion euros (+5.6%) were imported from these countries. In March 2019 goods worth 26.0 billion euros (+6.0%) were exported and goods worth 19.7 billion euros (+5.3%) imported from EU countries outside the euro zone.

In March 2019 goods worth 47.8 billion euros were exported to countries outside the European Union (third countries) and goods worth 39.0 billion euros were imported from these countries. Compared to March 2018 exports to third countries increased by 1.1% and imports from these countries by 3.1%.

In percentage terms imports have been rising much faster than exports every month for some time now. This has been the case throughout since May 2018 (second chart). So a weakness in foreign trade creeps in almost unnoticed if imports continue to grow much faster than exports. The surplus is still in the foreign trade clearly present. But if these strong imports continue that would be a problem in the long term.

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