China’s trade surplus soared to the highest level in nearly two years in December, fueled by strength in exports and a surprise deceleration in imports.
According to China’s General Administration of Customs, the nation’s trade surplus rose to $US54.69 billion last month, well above the $US40.21 billion level of November and forecasts for a decrease to $US37 billion.
It was the highest surplus since January 2016.
Helping to explain the significant increase in the headline trade figure, export growth topped expectations while import growth decelerated sharply.
From a year earlier, exports grew by 10.9%, below the 12.3% increase of November but above the 9.1% level expected.
In contrast, imports grew by just 4.5% over the same period, well below the 17.7% pace of November and forecasts for a smaller moderation to 13%.
It was the weakest annual growth in imports since December 2016.
“It will be hard for China’s foreign trade growth to remain in the double digits this year, Huang Songping, a spokesman for the General Administration of Customs, said following the release of the report.
Of note, particularly from a geopolitical perspective, China’s trade surplus with the United States fell to $US25.55 billion from $US27.87 billion in November, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
However, over the year, that still saw China’s trade surplus with the United States swell to $US275.81 billion, the largest on record.
In regard to North Korea, China said exports and imports to and from North Korea fell by 23.4% and 81.6% respectively in the year to December.
Compared to 2016, it said trade between the two nations fell by 10.5% last year.