Brussels - The euro zone’s trade surplus widened in February from a year earlier on rising exports, while imports were unchanged, the EU’s statistics office said yesterday.

Exports from the 18 countries using the euro increased by 3 percent on the year after a 1 percent rise in January, while imports were flat when compared with a year earlier, data showed. The annual data are not seasonally adjusted.

The foreign trade surplus rose to e13.6 billion (R198bn) in February, from a e9.8bn surplus in the same period last year. The surplus in January was revised to e0.8bn.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, exports continued to rebound after steadily declining through October, November and December last year. They showed a 1.2 percent increase on the month in February.

Seasonally adjusted imports edged up 0.6 percent month on month, the statistics office, Eurostat, said.

The bloc’s recovery is being driven by exports at present but the European Central Bank said earlier this month that domestic demand was also gradually increasing.

Exports from southern European countries continued to rise, Eurostat said. Portugal’s exports rose 4.3 percent in February, although Greece’s seasonally adjusted exports fell 6.1 percent.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, increased exports by 2.6 percent on the month on a seasonally adjusted basis in February and imports were up by 0.8 percent.

The second-largest economy, France, reported a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent monthly increase in exports, with imports falling 7.3 percent.

The euro zone economy climbed out of recession in the second quarter of last year and the European Commission expects economic growth to continue this year. - Reuters