German exports and imports surged in January at the fastest pace in nearly two years, data showed today. 

The figures added to signs that Europe's largest economy started the year on a strong footing and is on track to robust growth. 

Data from the Federal Statistics Office showed seasonally-adjusted exports up 2.2% in January, well above a consensus forecast for a rise of 1.4%. Shipments abroad had fallen 0.9% in December. 

Imports jumped even more, by 4.1%, more than double the highest forecast in a Reuters poll of 2%, bouncing back from a downwardly revised fall of 1.4% in December. The consensus forecast was for a rise of 1.3%. 

This narrowed the seasonally-adjusted trade surplus to €17.2 billion from a revised €18.3 billion in December. 

Today's trade data comes on the heels of upbeat figures last week showing industrial orders and output rose in January. Forward-looking indicators have also been positive, with the mood among consumers, investors and businesses hitting multi-year highs in recent months.

A breakdown of year-on-year data showed demand from European countries beyond the euro zone contributed most to the surge, up 9.1%. But exports to the euro zone were also up on the year, by 3.2%, and only shipments to countries beyond Europe fell.

German imports were strongest from the euro zone, in a sign that solid German demand is helping the rest of the euro zone recover from recession.