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Eurozone Sees Surprise Trade Surplus

EU statistics agency said trade swung into a surplus in October as the recession-hit 15-nation economy sees exports hit by a stronger euro and tumbling demand abroad.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Euro-zone trade swung into a surprise surplus in October as the recession-hit 15-nation economy sees exports hit by a stronger euro and tumbling demand abroad, the EU statistics agency said Thursday.

The euro-zone reported a trade surplus of euro900 million ($1.26 billion) in October from a year ago after posting a euro4.5 billion deficit in September.

Euro exports of euro141.2 billion were up 1 percent in October compared to the same month last year. This outpaced imports, which were up 3 percent to euro140.3 billion.

It also bucks a general trend where euro nations are now importing more than they export. The strength of euro against the U.S. dollar and the British pounds has made foreign goods cheaper for European buyers -- and euro products more expensive for the rest of the world.

Imports from January to October are up 10 percent, Eurostat said, while exports rose a slower 6 percent during the same period -- building up to a euro24.5 billion trade deficit.

Exchange rates have hit euro-zone trade with its two biggest trading partners, Britain and the United States, so far this year.

From January to September, exports to Britain have not grown at all compared to last year, Eurostat said. Exports to the U.S. have fallen 3 percent. Euro-zone imports from both countries are up but only slightly -- 1 percent from Britain and 4 percent from the U.S.

Surging trade with emerging economies China and Russia has partly compensated for this.

Now the euro-zone's biggest source of imports, China increased imports to the euro area by 6 percent in the first nine months of the year, while the euro area sold 12 percent more to China.

Russian imports to euro nations -- mostly natural gas and oil -- shot up 27 percent during the same period as energy prices soared this summer. Euro exports to Russia also climbed 21 percent.

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