China August imports rise for first time in nearly two years as demand picks up
China's imports unexpectedly rose in August for the first time in nearly two years, boosted by coal and other commodities, suggesting domestic demand may be picking up and putting the world's second-largest economy on a more balanced footing.
Exports also showed signs of improvement, falling by a less-than-expected 2.8 per cent from a year earlier, as demand in the United States, Europe and even Japan showed some signs of improvement, data showed on Thursday.
If it proves sustainable, a trade recovery or even signs of trade stabilisation would help ease fears that China's economy is becoming increasingly lopsided, and give feeble global growth a much-needed shot in the arm.
In recent months, China's economy has shown signs of stabilising, but growth has become more dependant on a government infrastructure spending spree and a housing boom as private investment fizzles and exports remain sluggish.
"The improvement in imports is mostly a reflection of stronger domestic demand. Chinese companies are restocking (raw materials), and also are now expecting prices to start rising," said Wang Jianhui, an economist with Capital Securities in Beijing.
"There is also some expectation that the economy is improving. As we are entering the high season in the fourth quarter, we expect exports to stay stable and imports to improve as higher prices spread to more products," added Jianhui.
China's 1.5 per cent import rise was the first expansion in value terms since October 2014. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a fall of 4.9 per cent, moderating from a sharp 12.5 per cent tumble in July.