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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 11:04 GMT
German trade surplus hits record
Volkswagen worker putting car together
Germany is one of the world's largest exporters
Germany's trade surplus climbed to a record in 2005 underlining the nation's strength as an exporter, government figures have shown.

But foreign sales dipped in December and analysts said it may mean growth in Europe's main economy slowed, or even halted, in the final quarter.

The trade surplus was 160.5bn euros (110bn; $192bn) in 2005, compared with 156.1bn euros a year earlier.

Total exports rose to 786.1bn euros in 2005, while imports totalled 625.6bn.

'White-hot growth?'

The trade figures come after a number of economic reports have worried investors and observers.

"This is disappointing," said Dirk Schumacher, an economist at Goldman Sachs.

While there is optimism about the longer-term outlook for the German economy - with companies saying they are more upbeat than in recent months - there also are signs that its recovery is hardly powering ahead.

During December the trade surplus shrank by more than expected as fuel costs surged. Imports rose by 5.8% in December, compared with an increase in exports of 0.8%.

"We see risks of a decline in fourth quarter economic growth and are expecting a flat reading," said Alexander Koch, an analyst at HVB.

"On the strength of the latest data, it's obvious we won't see white-hot growth this year," he said.

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