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Public's finances back in black for Germany as recovery continues

FRANKFURT--Germany, Europe's biggest economy, clocked up a small surplus in its public finances in 2013, as growth picked up at the end of the year, official data showed on Tuesday.

“According to Destatis's latest calculations, the federal state's financing surplus amounted to 0.3 billion euros (US$0.4 billion) in 2013,” the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement.

“It is the second year in a row that a small financing surplus has been achieved.”

At the same time, Destatis confirmed that gross domestic product GDP grew by 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, fractionally faster than growth of 0.3 percent in the preceding quarter.

EU countries are obliged, under membership rules, to limit their public deficits to no more than 3.0 percent of GDP and to achieve balanced budgets or even surpluses in the longer term.

Germany, which has weathered the financial and economic crisis much better than most of its EU neighbors, already managed to run up a small surplus equivalent to 0.1 percent of GDP in 2012.

Measured against total output of 2.738 trillion euros in 2013, last year's ratio was more or less zero, Destatis said.

The financing surplus is the difference between the state's revenues and spending, which amounted to 1.2334 trillion euros and 1.2331 trillion euros respectively in 2013, the statement added.

Turning to the fourth-quarter growth data, Destatis confirmed its preliminary estimate released earlier this month that “Germany continued along its path of moderate growth at the year-end.”

As previously calculated, GDP expanded by 0.4 percent in the period from October to December compared with 0.3 percent in the preceding three months.

Growth was driven primarily by foreign trade, with exports rising by 2.6 percent in the three-month period, while imports were up just 0.6 percent, the statisticians calculated.

“There were mixed signals from domestic demand,” Destatis said.

“Investment in both equipment and in construction was up strongly over the third quarter. And the same time, there was a sharp reduction of inventories, which braked the growth momentum,” the statement said.

“And there was little change in consumption, with state spending stagnating at the level of the previous quarter, while consumer spending slipped slightly by 0.1 percent,” Destatis said.

Over 2013 as a whole, the German economy expanded by 0.4 percent, Destatis calculated.

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