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Eurozone Current-Account Surplus Soars to Record EUR37.9 billion in February -- Update

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04/21/2017 | 12:05pm CEST
By Todd Buell 

The eurozone's current-account surplus rose sharply in February to hit a record high, data from the European Central Bank showed Friday.

The surplus hit EUR37.9 billion ($40.62 billion), compared with EUR26.1 billion in January, the data showed.

The eurozone's surplus in both goods and services increased in February versus January, while the surplus in primary income narrowed. The deficit in secondary income also narrowed.

The data might not go down well in Washington, where President Donald Trump has expressed frustration at Germany's large trade surplus. Germany is the European Union's largest economy.

Trade gaps with Germany are a topic in Washington as leaders gather for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund. On Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble defended the nation's vast trade surpluses to a U.S. audience and called on world governments to stop relying on debt-fueled growth and easy money from central banks.

The International Monetary Fund has also taken aim at Germany's surplus.

"Germany, with its aging population, should have, and can legitimately aim to have, a degree of surplus," IMF chief Christine Lagarde said this week in a briefing with European media. "But not to the extent we see at the moment."

At two speeches in Washington where global economic leaders are gathering for the series of semiannual meetings, Mr. Schäuble blamed Germany's trade surpluses in part on the policies of the European Central Bank. He also attributed the economic problems of some eurozone countries on their failure to implement "unpleasant reforms."

In the 12 months to February, the eurozone current-account surplus equaled 3.4% of eurozone gross domestic product compared with 3.2% one year earlier.

The current-account balance is a broad measure of an economy's international financial position. The data are adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects.

Tom Fairless in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Todd Buell at todd.buell@wsj.com

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