China exports rise for first time in nine months

China exports rise for first time in nine months

BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
China exports rise for first time in nine months

AFP photo

Chinese exports surged in March, the first gain in nine months and the latest positive data out of the world’s number two economy, but analysts warned the April 13’s headline figure masked ongoing weakness in overseas demand.

Official figures showing a better-than-expected jump in shipments abroad come just days after another strong inflation reading and last week’s surprise jump in an index of factory activity.     

The results fuelled hopes that a growth slowdown in the world’s biggest trader in goods and crucial pillar of global trade may be bottoming out. Investors welcomed the news, sending the benchmark Shanghai composite index up 1.42 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index up 3.19 percent.

The figures came ahead of the release of first-quarter gross domestic product data on April 15, which a poll by AFP forecast would show expansion weakened further.

Customs said exports increased 11.5 percent on-year to $160.8 billion, beating the 10 percent rise economists predicted in a Bloomberg survey and snapping an eight-month streak of declines caused by waning global demand. Exports plunged more than 25 percent in February.

But imports fell for the 17th consecutive month, albeit at a slower pace, dropping 7.6 percent on-year to $131.0 billion, Customs said.

However, analysts pointed out that the latest figures were helped by having a low basis of comparison, after exports plunged 15.0 percent year-on-year in March 2015.

Zhao Yang of Nomura said in a note that shipments rose mainly because of the “low base and calendar effect” due to seasonal distortions around the Lunar New Year holiday, and warned that “external demand has not improved as much as the number may suggest.”

But the pace of import declines reduced, he noted, “possibly driven by faster investment and government spending.”