BERLIN (Reuters) - German seasonally-adjusted exports hit a record high in December and the trade surplus widened more than expected, showing that Europe's largest economy gathered steam in the final month of the year, according to official data on Monday.
The Statistics Office said seasonally-adjusted exports rose by 3.4 percent on the month, beating a consensus forecast for a 1.0 percent gain, while imports dropped by 0.8 percent on the month versus a consensus forecast for a 0.4 percent fall.
"Today's data signals that foreign trade in the final quarter actually made a positive contribution to growth," said Johannes Mayr at BayernLB.
Economists said the December data could lift Germany's gross domestic product growth rate for the final quarter, which is due to be released on Friday and is forecast to show 0.3 percent month-on-month growth and rise 1.0 percent on the year.
"This is a great end to 2014. Growth is reviving, as we have already seen from sentiment indicators like Ifo, as well as the industry orders," said Stefan Schilbe of HSBC Trinkaus, adding that although world trade may slow down in 2015, the weaker euro would help German exporters.
The trade surplus for December stood at 21.8 billion euros, up from a revised 17.9 billion in November. That compared with the consensus forecast for 18.3 billion euros. For 2014 Germany registered a new record trade surplus of 217 billion euros.
The current account surplus, which has earned Germany sharp criticism from its main trading partners who urge it to boost domestic demand to address global economic imbalances, expanded to 215.3 billion euros in 2014 from 189.2 billion in 2013.
Reporting by Caroline Copley and Stephen Brown