The euro zone's trade surplus shrank more than expected in November amid a strong euro as imports grew faster than exports, the European Union's statistics office said on Thursday.
Eurostat reported that on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the trade surplus of the then 13 countries using the euro totaled 2.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion), down sharply from 5.2 billion a year before.
It revised down the October trade surplus to 5.4 billion euros from a previous reading of 6.1 billion euros.
Economists polled by Reuters had on average expected a surplus of 5.5 billion euros for November.
Exports grew by 4.0 percent year-on-year in November, while imports rose 7.0 percent.
The seasonally adjusted trade surplus was 2.7 billion euros, down from 3.0 billion in October with exports up 0.3 percent against the previous month and imports rising 0.5 percent.
More detailed data for November was not yet available, but January-October figures showed the euro zone's deficit with Russia, its main energy supplier, fell to 24.1 billion euros from 36.3 billion in the same period of 2006.
The euro's strength against other currencies harms euro zone exports, economists say, but it shields the currency area against growing prices of oil, which trades in U.S. dollars.
The trade deficit with China soared to 91.1 billion euros in the first 10 months of last year from 72.9 billion in the same period of 2006.
The euro zone's trade deficit in energy declined to 183 billion euros in the January-October period from 207.2 billion a year earlier. The deficit in crude materials rose to 31.7 billion from 27.5 billion.
The surplus in manufactured goods, sales of which fuel the German economy especially, increased to 222.7 billion euros from 194.6 billion.