BRUSSELS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The euro zone recorded a higher than expected trade surplus in November thanks to surging exports and flat imports, data showed on Tuesday, indicating rising competitiveness of the bloc as well as subdued domestic demand caused by recession.
The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said the unadjusted trade surplus of the 17 countries sharing the euro was 13.7 billion euros in November, up from 4.9 billion euros a year earlier as exports jumped 5 percent and imports were flat.
In the first 11 months of 2012, euro zone exports rose 8 percent against the same period of 2011, while imports rose just 2 percent.
A more detailed breakdown of the January-November period was not yet available, but data showed that in January-October, exports of euro zone machinery, cars and other manufactured products offset higher costs of imports of oil and gas.
Adjusted for seasonal swings, the trade surplus was 11 billion euros in November, up from 7.4 billion in October as exports rose 0.8 percent month-on-month and imports dropped 1.5 percent month-on-month.
The trade surplus of Europe's biggest exporter, Germany, grew further in the first 10 months of 2012 to almost 158 billion euros from 129 billion a year earlier.
But the biggest single improvement was in Italy, which swung to a 6.6 billion euro surplus in the first 10 months of 2012 from a deficit of 25.3 billion euros a year earlier.
Countries under European Union and International Monetary Fund emergency funding programmes to bring public finances back on track showed improving trade results.
Portugal's trade deficit fell to 9.1 billion euros for the period January-October, from 14.2 billion euros, and Greece's shrank to 13.2 billion euros from 18.8 billion.
Ireland kept a steady surplus of 35.6 billion in the first 10 months of the year.