The 17-nation eurozone posted a trade deficit of 3.9 billion euros in January after a surplus of 10.8 billion euros in December, official data showed Monday.
For the month, exports rose 2.0 percent and imports increased 3.1 percent, the Eurostat data agency said.
For the full 27-member European Union, January showed a trade deficit of 16.9 billion euros, blowing out from a deficit of just 1.1 billion euros in December, it said.
EU exports rose 2.9 percent in January compared with December, with imports up 1.3 percent.
Analysts said the trade figures were positive overall, confirming the slight improvement recent data, albeit against a still very weak backdrop.
Economist Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight said the January outcome "offer hope that net trade could make a renewed positive contribution" to growth in the first quarter.
The figures "were relatively healthy," with the rise in imports perhaps a "sign that eurozone domestic demand has picked up from the lows seen in the fourth quarter of 2012."
The eurozone "will be fervently hoping that global growth improves as 2013 proceeds, thereby boosting exports and facilitating the single currency area’s exit from recession," Archer added.