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China's Exports grow by 10.6% in January

Date 14-February-2014
Subject China's Exports grow by 10.6% in January

China : China surprised markets with a thumping trade performance in January as import growth hit a six-month high, drawing some scepticism about the data but still allaying fears of a deepening economic malaise.

Analysts who had expected the long Lunar New Year holiday to drag on January's trade warned that the figures may be inflated by fake trade transactions, where traders forge deals to sneak cash into the country past capital controls.

The value of China's total exports climbed 10.6 per cent in January from a year earlier, the Customs Administration said more than five times market forecasts for a 2 per cent rise.

The value of imports also jumped 10 per cent from a year ago as China bought record volumes of iron ore, crude oil and copper. That lifted import growth to its highest level since July, handily beating predictions for a 3 per cent gain. The country's trade surplus rose to $31.9 billion, well above forecasts of $23.7 billion and December's $25.6 billion.

"We find this strong level of export growth puzzling," said Zhang Zhiwei, an economist at Nomura. "It is unclear to what extent the strong export data reflects the true strength in the economy."

A run of underwhelming economic data from China in recent weeks had steeled investors for another disappointment on Wednesday, as markets braced themselves for more signs that the world's second-largest economy is losing momentum. Fears that China may be slipping into a sharper-than-expected slowdown were believed to have fed a fierce selloff in global financial markets in January, with emerging markets hit particularly hard.

A resilient Chinese economy is good news for the world, particularly for major commodity exporters such as Australia. Already the world's biggest exporter, China may overtake the United States to be the world's largest importer this year, HSBC Bank has predicted. Economists expect China's economy to grow at its slackest pace in 14 years this year at 7.4 per cent.

"Looking ahead, improving conditions in developed economies should continue to support Chinese exports," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Markets in Singapore.

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