The eurozone’s trade surplus jumped ahead of forecasts for a second successive month in December, returning to near the all-time highs it hit earlier in the year.

Businesses in the single currency area exported €24.5bn more goods and services than they imported in January. Economists had expected the surplus to decline, but the figure was €2.5bn larger than the previous month, and the second-largest on record.

Imports rose by 4 per cent, but export growth accelerated even faster, increasing by 6 per cent.

The eurozone’s annual trade surplus for 2016 came in at €273.9bn, almost 15 per cent higher than 2015. In a further sign of the area’s gradual recovery, intra-euro area trade rose by a more modest 1 per cent.

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