Axel Heimken, file, Associated Press
FILE - The June 23, 2009 file photo shows containers being shipped in the harbour of Hamburg, Germany. Official data show that German exports surged 7.3 during the month of March to hit their highest level since records started being kept in 1950. The Federal Statistical Office said Monday, May 9, 2011 that Germany, which has Europe's biggest economy, exported goods and services worth euro 98.3 billion (US$ 141 billion) in March. From a year earlier, exports were up 15.8 percent.

BERLIN — German exports surged 7.3 during March to their highest value since records started being kept in 1950, rounding off another strong quarter for Europe's biggest economy, the Federal Statistical Office said Monday.

Germany, one of the world's biggest exporters, sold goods and services beyond its borders for a total of €98.3 billion ($141 billion) in March.

Overall exports were up 15.8 percent in year-on-year terms, the Federal Statistical Office said. Germany's deliveries to other countries in the 17-nation eurozone were up a slightly more modest — but still healthy — 14.2 percent to €39.7 billion.

The German economy has benefited over the past year from strong demand for machinery, cars and other goods from a recovering global economy, and hasn't yet shown signs of being ruffled by debt troubles elsewhere in Europe.

"Looking ahead, exports should remain a reliable source for growth — even if the pace of export growth is about to slow down," ING economist Carsten Brzeski said. "Demand from both the emerging and the developed world remains solid."

Still, he pointed to the possible risk from austerity measures in several countries and said "the biggest risk for German exporters stems from a stronger exchange rate." The European Central Bank's determination to combat inflation by raising interest rates has pushed up the euro this year.

While exports were the initial driver of Germany's impressive economic recovery, domestic demand also has shown signs of improvement.

German imports were up 3.1 percent on the month in March at €79.4 billion — also a new monthly record, the statistical office said. In year-on-year terms, imports rose 16.9 percent.

The trade surplus stood at €18.9 billion in March, up from €11.9 billion in February.

Over the whole of the first quarter, exports were up 19.9 percent compared with a year earlier, with deliveries to other eurozone countries rising 16.6 percent.

Overall imports rose 22.4 percent during the quarter.

First-quarter economic growth figures are due on Friday and are expected to show GDP rose by up to 0.9 percent compared with the previous three-month period. In the fourth quarter, growth slowed to 0.4 percent as business in construction was hurt by an early spell of harsh winter weather.

The latest economic data "signal another smashing growth performance in the first quarter," Brzeski said. But he suggested that less dramatic growth lies ahead — "the economy is currently taking it down a gear, cruising along smoothly."