German exports plunge in March as coronavirus crisis hits demandGerman exports plunge in March as coronavirus crisis hits demand
Aerial view of a container ship arriving at a loading terminal of the harbour during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bremerhaven

BERLIN (Reuters) – German exports tumbled by 11.8% in March, their steepest drop since current records began in 1990, as the coronavirus crisis reduced demand for goods from Europe’s biggest economy, the Federal Statistics Office said on Friday.

Seasonally adjusted imports fell by 5.1% and the trade surplus narrowed to 12.8 billion euros ($13.88 billion) from a downwardly revised 21.4 billion euros in the prior month, the office said.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to fall by 5% and saw imports down 4%. The trade surplus was expected to come in at 18.9 billion euros.

The German government expects the economy, which has traditionally been dependent on exports, is expected to shrink by a post-World War Two record of 6.3% despite a massive rescue package of 750 billion euros to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

Economists expect any recovery to be slow and the pace of an economic rebound will largely depend on how fast Germany’s European neighbours and other trade partners like China and the United States emerge from the crisis.

“The interdependence of the global economy will be fatal for the export sector during the coronavirus crisis,” Alexander Krueger of Bankhaus Lampe wrote in a note, adding that the worst was still to come.

(Writing by Joseph Nasr and Klaus Lauer; Editing by Michelle Martin)