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Strong euro hits German exports

German exports unexpectedly slumped in March, data released Wednesday showed, as a strong euro undercut the global competitiveness of Europe's biggest economy.

Drawn up by the nation's statistics office, the figures showed German exports falling 1.4% month on month in March. Economists had expected the March data to show a modest gain in exports, which are a key pillar of Germany's economic growth with the success of the country's export machine having turned the nation into the world's export champion. The March data was collated against the backdrop of a rising euro, which hit an all-time high of $1.3582 last month. The figures also coincided with signs of a slowdown in the US economy, which economists expect will dampen global growth in the coming months. The trade surplus came in at €18.4 billion, the statistics office said. Compared to March 2006, German exports were up 9.3%. Imports were 4.6% higher year on year. Meanwhile, the statistics office showed Germany enjoying buoyant trade with its European Union partners, which make up more than half of total exports, and with Asia's as well as Eastern Europe's fast- paced economies.

German exports to the 27-member EU jumped 11.5% year-on-year in March, the statistics office said ,while imports from Germany's European partners rose 8.6%. Exports to the 13-member eurozone rose 10.3% in March. At the same time, exports to EU nations that are not euro members, which include the Brussels-based bloc's new member states in Central Europe, surged by 14.1%. Exports to countries outside the EU rose 5.3% year-on-year in March with imports from non-EU states falling 2.6% in March. (