Imports slump raises concern about health of European economy

New car sales fell 5.6 per cent in June, with 1.18 million new cars sold last month, the lowest June figure since 1996

Meanwhile, trade figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat showed a sharp drop in imports to the bloc in May

Meanwhile, trade figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat showed a sharp drop in imports to the bloc in May

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 01:00


European imports slumped in May, while car sales hit a 17-year low last month, raising concerns about the health of the European economy.

As workers took to the streets in Greece to protest at the latest round of public sector job cuts required by the troika of international lenders, a slew of economic figures showed Europe is struggling to revive its economy.

New car sales fell 5.6 per cent in June, with 1.18 million new cars sold last month, the lowest June figure since 1996, according to figures published by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

France saw an 8.4 per cent drop, German car sales were down by 4.7 per cent, while sales fell by 5.5 per cent in Italy, as consumer demand continued to tighten across the EU. The figures for Ireland showed a 71 per cent drop in June, reflecting the introduction of the 132 number plate this month, as buyers waited to buy or register a car until the second half of the year.

Overall, European car sales fell 6.7 per cent in the first half of the year to 6.44 million vehicles, the lowest since 1993.

Meanwhile, trade figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat showed a sharp drop in imports to the bloc in May, with imports from most of its trading partners, except Turkey and India, declining. The bloc’s biggest economies saw a drop in imports, with imports to Germany falling 1 per cent, France down 2 per cent, Spanish imports dropping 4 per cent and Italy experiencing a 6 per cent fall.

Europe’s trade surplus increased to €15.2 billion in May, driven mainly by the fall in imports. Exports from the 17 member states that use the single currency were down by 2.3 per cent compared with the previous month.

A keenly watched economic indicator showed German investor confidence unexpectedly dropped last month. The Zew Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations fell to 36.3 from 38.5 in June.

Inflation in the euro zone increased to 1.6 per cent last month, compared with 1.4 per cent in May, figures from Eurostat showed. This compares with an inflation rate of 2.4 per cent a year ago.