German foreign trade gains momentum in April

German foreign trade gained momentum in April, as both imports and exports grew, data showed Friday, suggesting that Europe's biggest economy is putting behind it the weakness seen in the first quarter.

Exports are key to the German economy and have helped the country avoid the worst of the eurozone debt crisis that has engulfed many of its neighbours.

In April, German exports rose 1.9 percent from a month earlier in seasonally-adjusted terms to 93.1 billion euros ($123 billion, the national statistics office Destatis said.

Imports rose by a slightly stronger 2.2 percent to 75.4 billion euros.

That meant the trade surplus inched up fractionally to 17.7 billion euros in April from 17.6 billion euros in March, the statisticians calculated.

The better than expected data was "positive news" and "a sign that the foreign trade is gaining momentum after the weak performance in the first quarter," said Natixis economist Johannes Gareis.

On a 12-month basis, exports grew by 8.5 percent year-on-year while imports advanced by 5.2 percent, Destatis said.

A breakdown showed that exports to eurozone countries increased by 4.3 percent year on year, while exports to countries outside Europe soared by 13.6 percent, "underscoring the view that the German is counting on stronger demand from non-European markets," Gareis said.

Annalisa Piazza at Newedge Strategy said that "improved trade activity is one of the key factors mentioned by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi as a driver of the recovery of the eurozone economy in the second half of this year.

"As such, today's data are encouraging as they reflect some progress in the right direction. That said, we remain sceptical on future demand and we still see downside risks to prevail," Piazza cautioned.