Germany’s trade surplus – the difference between exports and imports – was the second highest in more than 60 years in 2012.
That seems to show underlying resilience in Europe’s largest economy.
However, in December both exports and imports were weaker than expected.
Analysts blamed poor demand from the eurozone and beyond for the export situation and Germans’ reluctance to spend for the fall in imports.
However they did point to signs of recovery ahead, including a 0.8 percent rise in December industrial orders.
“Imports fell noticeably in December but were stronger then exports over the entire quarter, which really weighed on economic growth,” said economist Andreas Scheuerle at Deka Bank.
“Looking forward the sky is brightening. Global early indicators have improved noticeably and give hope that export business will improve again.”
Germany’s economy shrank by 0.5 percent in the last three months of 2012 – its worst quarterly performance since a recession amid the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.
Most economists expect it to grow, albeit weakly, in the first quarter of this year and therefore escape recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.