China trade surplus jumps to $32bn

Shanghai port worker Image copyright AFP
Image caption Shanghai is the world's biggest port based on cargo shipments

China's trade surplus jumped to $31.9bn (£19.4bn) in January, easing concerns the world's second-largest economy may be stuck in a slowdown.

The figure was up 14% from a year earlier and stronger than forecasts for a $23.7bn surplus.

Imports rose by 10% from a year earlier to $175.27bn - led by record shipments of crude oil, iron ore and copper.

Exports increased by 10.6% from a year earlier, far faster than analysts' forecasts, to $207.13bn.

The positive trade figures also add to expectations China will overtake the US as the world's largest trading nation this year.

China is the world's largest exporter, and analysts had been expecting the data to reflect effects of the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in January this year.

During this period, factories and offices on the mainland tend to shut for long periods for workers to mark China's biggest annual holiday.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics said exports did far better than expected in January.

"Chinese data is inherently volatile at this time of year due to Chinese New Year," he said.

"The main reason that we were expecting a weak export performance last month was that exports one year ago were inflated by over-invoicing, providing an artificially strong base for comparison," he said.

'Upbeat' picture

Investors have been watching economic releases out of China closely as its growth affects the health of export-oriented countries such as Singapore and Australia.

China is expected to post its slowest growth in over a decade this year, which is likely to have a knock-on effect across the region.

Last month, financial markets nosedived after surveys of its manufacturing and services sectors indicated a slowdown in the economy.

However, Mr Evans-Pritchard said he expected China's trade surplus to remain large this year.

"The broader picture is also upbeat," he said. "Other indicators such as the statistics bureau's industrial export sales suggest that external demand has remained healthy in recent months."

"Looking ahead, improving conditions in developed economies should continue to support Chinese exports.

"In contrast, we expect import growth to moderate as slowing investment spending is likely to continue to weigh on commodity imports."

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