London – Euro zone’s trade surplus shrank in August as the stronger euro fueled an import boom that was only partly offset by a rise in exports, official estimates released on Monday showed.
Although the euro has depreciated against the dollar from a 2017 peak in early September, it is still up more than 12 percent this year. Cheaper imports have complicated European Central Bank’s plans to raise inflation in the euro zone.
The European statistics office Eurostat said the 19-country currency bloc’s surplus in goods trade dropped to 16.1 billion euros ($18.9 billion) in August from 23.2 billion in July. It was also lower than in August 2016 when it stood at 17.5 billion euros, according to Reuters.
The lower surplus was caused by a surge in imports from countries outside the euro zone, which grew 8.6 percent on the year, according to seasonally unadjusted data.
This rise outstripped the 6.8 percent increase in exports, resulting in a smaller surplus for the euro zone. The August surplus was the lowest recorded this year, excluding a temporary deficit in January.
Inflation in the euro zone was 1.5 percent in September, according to Eurostat preliminary estimates, the same rate as in August and below the ECB target of a rate close to 2 percent.
The euro edged lower after posting its biggest weekly gain in a month before a European Central Bank meeting next week at which policymakers are expected to present a plan to roll back its stimulus programme.
With political uncertainty in the form of Catalonia’s bid for independence and the outcome of national elections in Austria having a very muted impact on the currency, investors moved to the sidelines to focus on economic data.
The euro fell 0.1 percent to $1.1814 on Monday but was hemmed in a tight 0.3 percent range. It rose 0.8 percent last week, its biggest weekly rise in a month, according to Thomson Reuters data.