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HELSINKI, July 7 (Reuters) - Finnish exports rose 27 percent in May from a year ago, preliminary data showed on Friday, adding to signs that the economy is recovering after a long period of stagnation.
Economic output in the euro zone country is still below levels prior to the financial crisis of 2008 due to a string of problems including the decline of Nokia's former phone business and a recession in neighbouring Russia.
Preliminary data from the national customs office showed the value of Finnish exports in May at 5.5 billion euros ($6.3 billion) and the value of imports at about 5.3 billion euros.
From January exports were up 18 percent compared to last year.
"These are strong numbers. It's the first time since 2010 that monthly exports break the 5.5 billion threshold, and only the second time since 2008", said economist Juhana Brotherus from Hypo Bank.
The figures were boosted by a cruise ship delivery from Meyer Turku shipyard to TUI cruises, unit of TUI AG, worth around 500 million euros.
Both Finland's finance ministry and the central bank lifted their economic forecasts in June, citing recovering exports. The ministry expects Finnish GDP to expand 2.4 percent this year, while Bank of Finland forecasts growth of 2.1 percent.
But many banks are more optimistic, expecting growth of around 3 percent.
"All sectors, private consumption and now also exports are supporting the economy. Altogether this adds up to GDP growth of 3 percent for the year", Hypo's Brotherus said. ($1 = 0.8762 euros) (Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Niklas Pollard)