German exports down nearly a quarter in April as virus hits

BERLIN (AP) — German exports plunged by nearly a quarter in April compared with the previous month as coronavirus shutdowns dragged down demand, official data showed yesterday.

The figures from the Federal Statistical Office followed data showing big drops in factory orders and industrial production in Europe’s biggest economy in April, underlining expectations of a sharp economic contraction in the second quarter.

Exports dropped 24 per cent in April, following an 11.7 per cent decline in March — the month when European countries, including Germany, started imposing lockdowns.

In year-on-year terms, exports dropped 31.1 per cent in April, the biggest drop since records began in 1950. There were sharp drops in exports to France, Italy and the United States (US) – 48.3 per cent, 40.1 per cent and 35.8 per cent respectively. Exports to China, however, were down a comparatively modest 12.6 per cent.

German imports dropped 16.5 per cent in April compared with the previous month, following a five per cent drop in March. In year-on-year terms, there was a 21.6 per cent decline in April.

Germany’s lockdown was less severe than those imposed in Italy, Spain and France and it never ordered factories closed, but companies did largely stop production in some areas — such as the automaking sector — and supply chains were disrupted.

Germany started easing restrictions on public life on April 20 and the process has gathered pace since. However, the German economy went into a recession in the first quarter, when it shrank by 2.2 per cent, and that is expected to deepen in the current quarter.

An employee walks past vehicles in production with a face mask at the VW plant in Wolfsburg, Germany on April 27. PHOTO: AP