BRUSSELS The euro zone recorded in January a trade deficit for the first time in three years as a rise in exports from a year earlier was more than offset by a larger increase of imports, the European Union statistics office said on Friday.
Eurostat said the 19-country currency area recorded a 0.6 billion euro ($646.4 million) deficit in January in its trade balance with states outside the bloc.
It is the first deficit, unadjusted for seasonal factors, since January 2014. Deficits are not unusual in January, when winter demand for energy can peak and export of other products, such as food and drink, slow.
Euro zone exports grew by 13 percent in January on the year to 163.9 billion euros, but the rise was counterbalanced by a 17 percent increase of imports, which totalled 164.5 billion euros, unadjusted figures showed.
Compared with December, figures adjusted for seasonal factors showed a 0.6 percent drop of exports in January and a 4.1 percent rise of imports.
Over the whole of last year, euro zone exports to the rest of the world were stable at a volume of around 2 trillion euros, Eurostat data showed. Imports went down 2 percent from 2015, while trade among euro zone countries was up 1 percent to a volume of 1.7 trillion euros.
($1 = 0.9282 euros)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Philip Blenkinsop)