The 17-member eurozone has posted a trade deficit for the first four weeks of the year, with imports rising stronger than exports. But Germany is confident it can hit another record this year with shipments abroad.
The euro area logged a trade deficit of 3.9 billion euros ($5.06 billion) in the first month of 2013, the European statistics office Eurostat announced Monday. In December, the single currency bloc still had a surplus of 10.8 billion euros.
Exports rose by 2 percent in January, while imports increased by 3.1 percent in the same month.
"The rise in imports is perhaps a sign that eurozone domestic demand has picked up from the lows seen in the fourth quarter of 2012," HIS Global economist Howard Archer told AFP news agency.
Bucking the trend
German industry for its part said Monday exports from Europe's biggest economy were likely to grow by 3.5 percent this year, after already logging a record volume of 1.1 trillion euros last year.
The managing director of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Markus Kerber, said the positive forecast was well-founded. "We expect global demand for German products to pick up markedly," Kerber said in a statement while presenting the federation's latest monthly foreign trade report.
He said the situation in Europe had stabilized somewhat despite an inconclusive election in Italy, adding that oversees markets such as China and the US would also remain of tremendous importance.
31 percent of all German exports already go to nations outside the European Union. Nonetheless, eight of the 10 most important recipients of German goods and services are still in Europe.