German exports in April rose more sharply than expected and industrial output also increased at a surprisingly strong rate, in a sign that Europe's largest economy got off to a good start in the second quarter.

Seasonally-adjusted exports jumped by 1.9% on the month, while imports fell by 1.3%.

This widened the trade surplus to €22.3 billion, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed today. 

Economists polled by Reuters had been expecting exports to rise by only 0.1% and imports to increase by 0.5% on the month.

In another good sign for the German economy, industrial output rose by 0.9% in April, better that analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll, who had predicted a rise of 0.5%.