China exports much stronger than expected, imports weak
China exports jumped by a fifth in February from a year earlier, more than double expectations, but imports were much weaker than forecast, official data
exports jumped by a fifth in February from a year earlier, more than double expectations, butimports were much weaker than forecast, official data showed on Friday.
For January and February combined exports rose 23.6 per cent, while imports increased 5 per cent, which compared with expectations for rises of 17.6 per cent and 10.0 per cent respectively.
Analysts look at the combined figures because of distortions caused by the Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in January in 2012 and in February this year. Reading too much into one month's data is a particular risk given the undeniable impact of the nationwide holidays.
"Exports in January and February were both quite strong," said Sun Chi, an economist at Daiwa in Hong Kong.
"This shows a recovering trend and is a good picture. For imports, we need to figure out if demand is falling or whether the weakness is due to prices."
The stronger exports figures were borne out by comments from China's third-largest port operator, Ningbo Port Group.
"Our data in the first two months shows the foreign trade situation is improving," Chairman Li Linghong told Reuters ahead of the trade data.
Ningbo port's container volumes rose 13.6 per cent in January and February from a year earlier and cargo volumes increased 12.4 per cent, Li said.
"Usually the first two months are a peak season for companies to deliver orders, but it still shows the demand from the international market," he said.
Still, the signs of recovery remain fragile after 2012 trade fell short of China's 10 per cent growth target as major demand centres including the euro zone and the United States struggled to pick up from the global financial crisis.
That was underlined by a decline in both new export orders and imports in China's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) in February.
That would hurt exports at a headline level and reduce imports to feed production lines in China's massive factory sector, which remains levered to foreign demand.
Trade is the first of a set of monthly data due in coming days.
Industrial output data for January and February -- combined to smooth out the impact of the Lunar New Year -- may show a rise of 10.5 per cent on the year when the numbers are published, a Reuters poll shows.
Up from 10.3 per cent in December, the figures due on Saturday might still disappoint those who expected more following a pick-up in economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.
China's economy expanded by 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, bouncing from the 7.4 per cent rate of the third quarter, the slowest three months of growth in the country since the first quarter of 2009 when the global financial crisis raged.