Shipments from the 16-nation euro area fell a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent from April, when they dropped 0.7 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said. Imports slipped 2.8 percent, swelling the trade surplus to 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) in May from 700 million euros.
Governments around the world have announced $2 trillion of stimulus measures to drag their economies out of the worst recession in six decades and the European Central Bank has cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 1 percent. While evidence is mounting that the global recession is easing, rising unemployment may still keep a lid on European domestic spending.
Exports to China dropped in the first four months of the year, today’s report showed. Sales to the world’s third-largest economy declined 8 percent in the period from a year earlier.
That was less than the decline in shipments to other countries. Exports to the U.K., the largest market for euro-area goods, fell 27 percent and sales to the U.S. dropped 22 percent. The national breakdown is published with a one-month lag.
The ECB expects the euro region’s economy to resume expansion in the middle of 2010. The ECB, which has pumped billions of euros into markets, kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 1 percent on July 2 and has announced plans to buy as much as 60 billion euros of covered bonds, securities backed by mortgages and public-sector loans.