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ECONOMY

Spanish exports hit record highs last year

Trade deficit was also the lowest on record

Spanish exports hit record levels last year, which helped reduce the trade deficit to its lowest recorded level, the government said Friday.

Overseas shipments in 2013 climbed 5.2 percent from a year earlier to 234.239 billion euros, the highest level since records began in 1971, the secretary of state for trade, Jaime García-Legaz, told a news conference. Imports declined 1.3 percent to 250.195 billion euros as domestic demand remained weak. As a result, the trade deficit narrowed 48.1 percent to 15.955 billion euros.

García-Legaz said that the decline in imports was lower than in the previous year, which possibly indicates a “progressive recovery in domestic demand.” Spain emerged from its longest recession since the restoration of democracy in the third quarter of last year due exclusively to the export sector.

The trade secretary said he expects exports to grow at the same rate as in 2013, although he acknowledged that this was an “extremely ambitious target.” He said he expects the export sector to contribute “at least one percentage point” to GDP growth this year.

The number of companies that export increased in the period January-November by 10.3 percent from a year earlier to 143,000, with the number that export regularly up 7.3 percent at 40,908, as firms increasingly look overseas to offset weak domestic demand.

Wage devaluation has also helped boost the competiveness of Spain.

“Spain’s competitiveness is improving and the number of exporters is increasing,” García-Legaz said.

The improvement in the trade balance and record earnings from tourism are expected to allow Spain to post its first current account surplus since 1986 after deficits of a magnitude second only to the United States in absolute terms.

According to figures released Friday by the Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry, a record 3.06 million foreigners visited Spain in January, an increase of 12.3 percent over a year earlier.

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