BERLIN (AP) -- German exports are still growing healthily despite the euro's near-record strength, climbing 9 percent on the year in February while the country's trade deficit exceeded expectations, government data showed Wednesday.
The Federal Statistical Office said Germany exported goods and services worth a total euro84.6 billion (US$133 billion) in February. The year-on-year growth of 9 percent was in line with the previous month's 8.8 percent expansion.
Well over half the exports -- some euro54.7 billion (US$86 billion) -- went to Germany's European Union partners. However, exports to EU countries grew at a slower rate -- 6.7 percent -- than those to other countries, which expanded by 13.5 percent to euro30 billion (US$47.2 billion).
The euro is close to record levels against the U.S. dollar, which has been weighed down by worries about the outlook for the American economy.
That threatens to make European exports more expensive and less competitive, but figures so far have shown German exports -- a key factor in the recent upswing of Europe's biggest economy -- holding up well.
On a month-to-month basis, exports were flat in February after growing the previous month. However, economist Andreas Rees at HVB in Munich said that was a ''technical reaction'' that had nothing to do with the euro or U.S. economic woes.
''The drag from the U.S. slowdown is compensated for by robust activity in emerging markets and the petrodollar recycling,'' or spending involving oil-rich nations, Rees wrote in a research note.
Germany is the world's leading exporter, although experts have forecast that it could give up that title to fast-growing China this year.
Anton Boerner, the head of the BGA exporters' association, cautioned that uncertainty over the extent of the financial market crisis cast a shadow looking forward.
''Rising prices for energy and raw materials, and above all the strong euro ... lead us to expect only below-average growth in foreign trade'' for the whole year, he said.
Wednesday's data showed that German imports grew by 7 percent on the year in February to euro67.7 billion (US$106.5 billion).
The country's trade surplus was euro16.9 billion (US$26.6 billion). That was below January's reading of euro17.1 billion (US$26.9 billion) but higher than the euro16 billion (US$25.2 billion) forecast of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.
Its current account surplus rose to euro15.4 billion (US$24.2 billion) in February from euro14.7 billion (US$23.1 billion) in January.
Rees said that net exports ''will contribute markedly to overall GDP growth'' in the first quarter. He raised his forecast for quarterly economic growth to 0.6 percent from 0.3 percent, pointing also to a boost from construction activity.
However, he said he expected weaker second-quarter growth of 0.2 percent and stuck to a full-year growth forecast of 1.8 percent. Last year, the economy grew by 2.5 percent.
In a separate report Wednesday, the Federal Statistical Office said that 2,454 businesses filed for bankruptcy in January.
That was an 11.3 percent increase over the same month in 2007 after the figure had long fallen -- but the office said that the spike was due largely to late data deliveries from courts in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, and that most other states recorded further decreases.
''Consequently, no general statement on a trend reversal in the development of insolvencies can be derived,'' it said in a statement.