© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A container ship leaves the port in front of famous landmark Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg

BERLIN (Reuters) – German exports rose by more than expected in September, and foreign trade gave Europe’s largest economy a boost going into the fourth quarter as it struggles to avoid slipping into a double dip contraction.

Seasonally adjusted exports rose 2.3% on the month after an upwardly revised 2.9% rise in August, the Federal Statistics Office said. Imports fell by 0.1% after a rise of 5.8% the previous month. The trade surplus expanded to 17.8 billion euros (16 billion pounds), the Office said.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to rise by 2.0% and imports to increase by 2.1%. The trade surplus was predicted to come in at 15.8 billion euros.

“Looking ahead, exports (and industrial production) could still prevent the economy from falling into a second lockdown depression in the final quarter of the year,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said.

“With U.S. President-elect Biden, the threat of U.S. tariffs on European (read German) automotives should disappear,” he added.

The economy grew by a record 8.2% in the third quarter on higher consumer spending and exports, but an aggressive second wave of infections and a new partial lockdown are now clouding the outlook for the fourth quarter and beyond.

Annual figures showed exports to China rose 10.6% from the previous September. Exports to the United States, which the Office said were particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, fell 5.8% on the year and those to the UK fell 12.4%.

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A picture is emerging of German industry growing despite the pandemic, while services struggle. Industrial output rose in September, data showed on Friday.

A survey released last Wednesday showed that German services activity shrank for the first time in four months in October.

Germany closed bars, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, theatres and domestic tourism last Monday for a month to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

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