German exports fall for second consecutive month in September

German exports fell for a second consecutive month in September while imports nearly stagnated, the statistics office said on Tuesday, in a further sign that supply chain disruptions are complicating the recovery of Europe’s largest economy.

Seasonally adjusted exports dropped 0.7% on the month to 112.3 billion euros ($129.75 billion), compared to economists’ expectations for no change.

Imports were up 0.1% to 99.2 billion euros, weaker than the 0.6% rise predicted.

Compared to February 2020, the month before the coronavirus pandemic hit Germany, exports were still down 0.3% whereas imports were up 7.8%, the seasonally adjusted data showed.

“Supply bottlenecks are weighing on production, which in turn is holding back exports,” Bankhaus Lampe economist Alexander Krueger said, adding that this trend would likely continue for the rest of the year.

The trade surplus stood at 13.2 billion euros in September, much lower than during the period before the pandemic, when it often exceeded 20 billion euros each month.

A breakdown of year-on-year trade data showed that German exports to the United Kingdom fell by 10% to 5.7 billion euros and imports from Britain dropped by 20% to 2.3 billion euros.

German exports to China edged down by 0.2% on the year to 8.5 billion euros and exports to the United States jumped 16.2% on the year, to 10.8 billion euros.

“Weaker demand from China is also a cause for concern. A growth spurt will only happen when supply chains function more smoothly. But that will take some time,” Krueger said.

The weak trade data chimed with a survey of the Ifo economic institute that showed October export expectations fell to the lowest since February as supply bottlenecks have been affecting the industrial sector.

Germany’s economy ministry last month cut its exports growth forecast for the year to 8.6% from the 9.2% it had predicted in April, citing a “historically unique shortage of intermediate goods” that the manufacturing sector is facing.

($1 = 0.8655 euros)