China Imports Surge Almost 40 Percent in February
BEIJING/ SHANGHAI: China’s imports surged almost 40 percent last month, data showed Wednesday, fueled by higher commodity prices and strong domestic demand, bolstering hopes that the world’s No. 2 economy is getting back on track.
The forecast-beating 38.1 percent year-on-year jump was almost twice as high as the 20 percent increase tipped in a Bloomberg News survey, while exports fell 1.3 percent, far below the 14 percent estimate.
The readings left China with a trade deficit of $9.15 billion, its first in three years.
Analysts said the February results owed to strong domestic demand, high international commodity prices and shifting timing of the Spring Festival holiday, which causes a slowdown in activity at factories and ports.
Leaders will likely take heart from the import figures as they look to reconfigure the economy from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. The figures follow upbeat reports on fourth-quarter growth and February factory activity.
Imports surged as economic activity recovers and commodity prices increase, Wen Bin, a researcher at China Minsheng Banking Corp. in Beijing, told Bloomberg News.
“Exports missed estimates mostly because trade is generally very volatile in the first two months due to the Chinese New Year factor.”
However, the data come as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over global trade owing to fears US President Donald Trump will press on with a protectionist agenda and kick off a trade war with China, which he has repeatedly accused of currency manipulation and unfair trade practices.
Meanwhile, China’s stocks edged lower, as small-caps pulled back amid lingering concerns over tighter liquidity. The CSI300 index fell 0.1 percent, to 3,449.45 points at the close, while the Shanghai Composite Index was barely changed at 3,241.18.
After an early-week rally led by technology shares, investors started to focus on longer-term factors such as liquidity situations and regional stability, while continuing to digest news flows from the annual meeting of China’s legislature.
Hedge fund manager Zhang Kaihua said an anticipated US rate hike next week “may prod China to tighten liquidity and increase money rates.”