Countries using the euro reported a wider trade deficit in January than a year earlier although trading activity continued to grow, according to figures published.

The European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said the 17 countries using the euro had a trade deficit of 14.8 billion euros ($20.7 billion) in January as imports outweighed exports, compared with a comparative gap of 9.7 billion euros a year earlier and 0.5 billion in December.

A Reuters poll of economists had forecast a deficit of -11.5 billion euros.

The data showed a 27 percent growth in exports by euro zone countries, counterbalanced by an even stronger jump in imports of 29 percent.

The European Union as a whole recorded its strongest increases in exports to the United States, as well as some of the major emerging economies. Trade with China jumped 37 percent and 30 percent with India. Brazil recorded a 45 percent rise in trade activity with the EU.

The biggest surplus last year—152.4 billion euros—was recorded by the European Union’s top economy, Germany.

Ireland, struggling to contain problems in its banking system which forced it to seek an EU bailout, also recorded a surplus of just more than 43 billion euros.

Non euro zone EU member Britain, however, had the biggest deficit of 115.5 billion euros, followed by France at 64.1 billion. (Reuters)