German Exports See Strong Gains

Exports rose by a healthy 9.2 percent?in May as an improving global economy stoked demand, while imports surged by an even stronger 14.8 percent, official data showed.

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's economy will likely grow faster than expected this year, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Thursday.

"We have a real chance to reach 2 percent growth" instead of the officially estimated 1.4 percent, he said according to the ddp news agency.

Schaeuble said the economic and financial crisis is "not over yet," adding that Germany's austerity measures mean "walking a thin line" but will not harm growth.

A number of data have signaled recovery recently of Europe's largest economy and some, including Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, have declared the end of the crisis.

On Thursday, official data showed that German exports rose by a healthy 9.2 percent on the month in May as an improving global economy stoked demand, while imports surged by an even stronger 14.8 percent.

Germany, the world's second-biggest exporter after China, exported goods and services worth euro77.5 billion ($97.7 billion) in May, the Federal Statistical Office said. Imports totaled euro67.7 billion.

The monthly rise in exports beat economists' forecasts of a 4 percent climb. The month-on-month rise in imports was the strongest since the yardstick was introduced in 1990.

Exports were up 28.8 percent on the year -- the strongest rise in 10 years. Imports rose 34.3 percent, the steepest climb since 1989.

Germany's export strength traditionally has been the main motor of the country's economy, which has settled into a modest recovery over the past year.

It has been helped this year by recovering demand, particularly in emerging Asian economies, and by the euro's considerable decline against the dollar.

The large increase in imports likely was driven mostly by demand for so-called intermediate goods used in manufacturing, said Andreas Rees, an economist at UniCredit in Munich.

That would bode well because it signals that "the underlying momentum in the industrial sector is still strong," Rees said.

Still, he said that leading indicators have now peaked and he expects full-year export growth to slow from 8 percent this year to about 4 percent in 2011.

Separate data showed that German industrial production rose 2.6 percent on the month in May -- up from 1.2 percent in April.

The Economy Ministry said there were above-average gains in the metal industry and in car production, which has been boosted by rising export demand.

Orders in April and May were up 4.3 percent over the previous two months, a less volatile comparison that underlines the upward trend, the ministry said.

The figures came a day after the ministry reported that industrial orders were down 0.5 percent on the month in May after two months of strong gains.

German officials recently have defended the country's export-driven recipe for success in the face of assertions from abroad that it should do more to increase demand at home.

Germany's foreign trade surplus stood at euro9.7 billion in May, the statistical office said -- down from euro13.1 billion in April but unchanged from May 2009.