Euro zone Dec trade surplus rises more than expected

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Shipping containers sit stacked at the Port 2000 terminal in the Port of Le Havre

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The euro zone's trade surplus with the rest of the world was bigger than expected in December, data showed on Monday, adding a positive contribution to the otherwise shrinking gross domestic product.

The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said the unadjusted trade surplus of the 19 countries sharing the euro was 29.2 billion euros in December, up from 22.6 billion a year earlier and beating expectations of a 25.3 billion surplus.

In the whole of 2020, when the COVID-19 ravaged the economy causing a deep recession, the single currency area still recorded a 234.5 billion euro trade surplus, more than the 221.0 billion in 2019 as exports fell less than imports.

Eurostat data showed it was mainly much smaller imports of energy, where there deficit fell to only 159 billion euros from 260 billion in 2019, that made the difference, offsetting a smaller surplus from exports of machinery and cars.

The European Union's trade deficit with Russia, its main gas and oil provider, fell to 16.2 billion euros from 57.3 billion in 2019 and swung to a 6.3 billion euro surplus with another energy supplier Norway, from a gap of 2.6 the year before.

Adjusted for seasonal swings, the euro zone's trade surplus with the rest of the world was 27.5 billion euros in December, up from 24.9 billion in November.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski)