China overtook Germany last year to become the world\'s leading exporter as German trade suffered its sharpest slump since 1950, figures from Germany\'s national statistics office showed on Tuesday.Â
\"According to information of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Chinese exports amounted to 1,201.7 billion dollars (876.5 billion euros), while German exports totalled 1,121.3 billion dollars\" last year, the Destatis office said.
The total value of 2009 German exports came to 803.2 billion euros, a drop of 18.4 percent, while imports fell by 17.2 percent to 667.1 billion euros compared with 2008, the Destatis office said in a statement.
\"This was the highest decline recorded in foreign trade in relation to both imports and exports since 1950,\" the statement said.
Europe\'s largest economy also reported, however, that its exports were 3.4 percent higher in December compared to December 2008 -- the first year-on-year gain since October 2008 and a key indication that a recovery is underway.
Imports fell by 6.5 percent over the same period.
Compared with November 2009, exports were 3.0 percent higher and imports gained 4.5 percent, further signs of a pick up in global trade that should help Germany pull out of its worst recession since World War II.
Germany posted a trade surplus of 136.1 billion euros for 2009, though that was down from the 178.3 billion euros recorded in 2008.
The economy shrank by five percent in 2009 but as consumption and exports slowly recover, the government has forecast growth of 1.4 percent this year.
Germany benefits in particular from EU trade, which accounted for 62.7 percent of its exports last year, providing 503.5 billion euros in revenues.
\"At least there is one reliable source of growth,\" ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski said.
\"Since March last year, German exports have increased by more than 10 percent.\"
He noted however that the latest German data releases indicate the recovery lost steam in the fourth quarter of 2009 but stressed that the overall picture was better than it seemed.
Inventory building would continue to underpin economic activity and trade should get a boost from the euro\'s fall against the dollar owing to fears generated by the Greek debt crisis.
The weaker euro was \"bound to be a boon to European exporters,\" said Howard Archer, chief economist for IHS Global Insight, a research consultancy in London.
Brzeski concluded that \"the road might be bumpy but it is the road to recovery and not a dead-end street.\"
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