Germany sees imports rebound in January

Containers being unloaded in the port of Hamburg Exports also rose, as demand from the US and China proved robust.

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German imports rebounded strongly in January, suggesting that domestic demand in the country may be set to recover after an autumn downturn.

Imports rose by a seasonally adjusted 3.3% from the month before, helping to shrink Germany's trade surplus.

Exports also rose, by 1.4%, driven by robust demand in the US and China.

Germany's economy shrank 0.6% in the last three months of 2012, thanks to recession in its main eurozone export markets and tepid domestic confidence.

However, the Ifo survey of business confidence has pointed to a strong rebound in expectations for growth since the beginning of the year, although the January trade data is the first solid indication that economic activity in Germany is picking up again.

Other data for manufacturing orders and industrial output released last week suggested that the German economy remained stagnant in the New Year.

German domestic demand is expected by most economists to play a major role in boosting the country's - and the entire eurozone's - economy.

German banks are awash with cash, and borrowing costs for businesses and mortgage borrowers are low, helping to stimulate an upturn in the country's property market.

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