BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The 15 nations that shared the euro bought more foreign goods than they sold in May as a strong euro undermined exports and high oil prices inflated imports, according to figures from the EU statistical agency Eurostat released Friday.
The strength of the euro against the dollar has made German cars and French wines far more expensive for Europe's biggest export market, the United States.
Euro exports grew just 4 percent in May from a year ago to 128.4 billion euros ($203 billion), down from April sales of 137.7 billion euros ($218 billion).
Exports to the U.S. have slumped 3 percent in the first four months of the year, Eurostat said. This has partly been compensated by growing trade with China -- up 19 percent -- and Russia -- up 24 percent.
Imports to the euro-zone grew 9 percent in May from the previous year to 133 billion euros ($211 billion), flattening slightly from April's 135.2 billion euros ($214 billion) as the economy slows.
Europeans are holding back from big purchases as high fuel and food prices force them to pay more at the gas pump and supermarket.
They bought only slightly more goods from the U.S. -- up 2 percent despite the weak dollar -- and China -- rising just 4 percent from a year ago.
But Russian imports -- mainly natural gas and oil -- surged by 24 percent in value in May from the same month in 2007.
As Europe's own North Sea oil reserves run out, it has become more dependent on oil and gas imports from Russia and the Middle East to heat homes and fuel cars and planes.
Skyrocketing oil prices caused Europe's energy import bill climb 41 percent from January to April this year from the same period last year.
The strong euro had earlier cushioned Europeans from the rising cost of dollar-priced oil but it is no longer reducing the full burden of escalating oil prices which last week hit a trading record by climbing above $147 a barrel.