German Exports Drop 23 Percent

Federal Statistical Office said exports fell 23.1 percent to $86.3 billion in February, while imports fell 16.4 percent to $74.2 billion.

BERLIN (AP) -- German exports fell 23.1 percent on the year in February and were slightly lower on the month as the economic crisis weighed on demand for the country's products, government figures showed Wednesday.

Exports totaled euro64.8 billion ($86.3 billion) in February, while imports totaled euro56.2 billion, the Federal Statistical Office said. Imports were down 16.4 percent compared with February 2008.

Exports to countries in the 27-nation European Union -- which accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total -- were down 24.4 percent, the statistics agency said. Exports to non-EU countries dropped by 20.6 percent.

Exports slipped by 0.7 percent in February compared with the previous month, while imports dropped by 4.2 percent.

That was an improvement on sharp monthly drops seen at the end of last year and better than the decline of some 3 percent economists had expected.

However, "there is absolutely no reason to give the all-clear," said Andreas Rees, an economist at UniCredit in Munich.

He said a downward revision for the previous month made February's figure look better than otherwise would have been the case, and "there are few signs that exports will stop shrinking any time soon."

First-quarter economic growth figures have yet to be released, but Rees estimated that net exports shaved 3 percentage points off gross domestic product in the quarter.

A separate report Wednesday from the Economy Ministry showed that German manufacturing orders were down 3.5 percent in February compared with the previous month.

That was an improvement on January's 6.7 percent drop but still worse than economists' expectations of a 2 percent decline.

Orders within Germany fell 5.7 percent, while orders from abroad were off by a more modest 1.3 percent.

From a year earlier, total orders slumped by 38.2 percent.

Germany, the world's biggest exporter, went into recession in last year's third quarter.

Analysts have forecast that its economy, Europe's biggest, will shrink by between 3 percent and 7 percent this year.

The government forecast in January that it would contract by 2.25 percent -- already easily the worst performance since World War II -- but has since conceded that it will have to revise the figure downward.

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