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German exports collapse in April as coronavirus wrecks demand

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German exports and imports slumped in April, posting their biggest declines since records began in 1990 as demand dried up in the coronavirus lockdown, adding to a gloomy outlook for Europe's biggest economy, data showed on Tuesday.

[BERLIN] German exports and imports slumped in April, posting their biggest declines since records began in 1990 as demand dried up in the coronavirus lockdown, adding to a gloomy outlook for Europe's biggest economy, data showed on Tuesday.

Facing its deepest recession since World War Two, the big question is how quickly Germany's export-oriented economy can recover now a shutdown that halted production and stunted retail has eased.

Seasonally adjusted exports dived 24 per cent on the month while imports slid by 16.5 per cent. The trade surplus shrank to 3.20 billion euros (S$5.03 billion), the Federal Statistics Office said.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to fall by 15.6 per cent and saw imports down 16 per cent. The trade surplus was expected to come in at 10 billion euros.

"Little is left of the last decade's export boom," said Alexander Krueger, economist at Bankhaus Lampe.

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A recovery may have already started due to a loosening of the lockdown and re-opening of borders, he said.

"But the road out of the corona trough is long, rocky and above all uncertain, especially for foreign trade."

The BDI industry association expects exports to slide by about 15 per cent this year and imports by some 12 per cent.

Desperate to speed up recovery, the government last week announced a 130 billion euro stimulus package to help boost domestic demand. That comes on top of 750 billion euros worth of measures announced in March.

But still, the government expects the economy to shrink by 6.3 per cent this year and in a sign of the scale of the crisis, about a quarter of German companies needed liquidity aid last month, the Ifo economic institute.

The pace of recovery also depends on European neighbours and Germany's trade partners such as China and the United States.

Exports to France and the United States, hit hard by the coronavirus, slid by about 48 per cent and 36 per cent respectively, while those to China, which has started to emerge from the crisis, fell by 12.6 per cent in April, the Office said.

REUTERS

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