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Germany achieves balanced budget one year ahead of schedule

[BERLIN] Germany has balanced the federal budget for the first time in almost half a century, helped by robust tax revenues and rock-bottom interest rates, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

Berlin had been aiming to achieve a "schwarze Null" - a federal budget in the black - in 2015 but got there one year ahead of schedule, potentially giving it more fiscal leeway at a time when it faces pressure from European partners to spend more to support weak euro zone growth.

It was the first time since 1969 that Germany achieved the feat and is a boon for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, which wrote the goal into a coalition agreement sealed in late 2013.

Tax revenues climbed to 270.8 billion euros last year - some 2.6 billion euros higher than previously forecast, according to preliminary 2014 budget figures provided by the ministry.

Government spending was 1 billion euros less than planned at 295.5 billion euros, its lowest level since 2009. That was largely because Berlin spent significantly less on interest payments on its debt at a time when the European Central Bank's main interest rate is at a historic low.