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BERLIN, May 10 (Reuters) - German exports rose unexpectedly in March, data showed on Friday, raising hopes that a slowdown in Europe's largest economy will not significantly dent growth in the first quarter despite headwinds from trade disputes.
The Federal Statistics Office said seasonally adjusted exports rose by 1.5 percent on the month while imports were up 0.4 percent. That meant the trade surplus edged up to 20.0 billion euros ($22.45 billion) in March from 18.7 billion euros the previous month.
A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a 0.3 percent decrease in exports and a 0.5 increase in imports. The trade surplus was expected to narrow to 18.2 billion euros.
The government has slashed its 2019 growth forecast to 0.5 percent.
Trade disputes between the United States and both China and the European Union, a slowing world economy and uncertainties linked to Britain's planned departure from the EU are leaving their mark on Germany's export-dependent manufacturers.
The sharp slowdown has also been linked to domestic factors such as problems in the car industry, where companies are struggling to adjust to stricter emission rules.
The economy has been sending mixed signals.
Data published this week showed exports had risen less than expected in March after two months of steep declines.
Industrial output unexpectedly increased in March but the economy ministry said the outlook remained subdued.
The slowdown has prompted the government to revise down its tax revenue estimates.
($1 = 0.8909 euros) (Reporting by Joseph Nasr Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Edmund Blair)