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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The euro zone's trade surplus widened in July thanks to a revival in exports, another sign that sales to the rest of the world are proving to be central to the bloc's recovery.
The seasonally unadjusted surplus of 17 countries sharing the euro widened to 18.2 billion euros ($24.30 billion) from 13.9 billion euro surplus in July last year, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday.
Exports rose by 3 percent, year on year, following a 3 percent drop in June compared to the same month a year ago. Imports were flat in July after a 6 percent decrease in June, suggesting that European household demand may be picking up.
The unadjusted cumulative surplus for the first seven months of the year stood at 90.8 billion euros, compared with 35.1 billion euros in the same period of last year.
A bounce in exports helped to pull the bloc out of recession in the second quarter, lifting growth from Germany to Portugal.
The bloc's 9.5 trillion euro economy saw exports to non-euro zone Britain, as well as Russia and Turkey, rising in July, although both exports and imports to and from the United States and China declined.
Exports from Germany also surprised with a fall in July and underscored that domestic spending is key for growth in Europe's largest economy this year, highlighting the risks of a bumpy recovery ahead.
The European Commission says the recovery in the euro zone is expected to gain a more solid footing next year, but economists do not see healthy growth returning to Europe before 2015.
The European Central Bank, which is expected to keep interest rates at record lows for an extended period of time, trimmed its 2014 growth forecast for the euro zone by 0.1 percentage points to a mid-point of 1 percent in September.
Reporting by Martin Santa; editing by Robin Emmott