Chinese trade data had something for everyone in August with export growth continuing to slow while at the same time imports surged.
According to China’s General Administration of Customs, exports grew by 5.5% from a year earlier in US dollar terms, a deceleration on the 7.2% pace of July and below forecasts for a smaller decline to 6.0%.
While still a healthy rate of growth, exports grew by as much as 16.4% in the year to April. A higher base effect could explain some of the moderation, but it may also be a sign that foreign demand is cooling.
Imports, on the other hand, surged, rising by 13.3% over the same period, accelerating from the 11% pace of July. That easily breezed past expectations for an increase of 10%.
The strength in imports not only reflects strong demand for raw materials but also firmer prices over the past year.
“Strong imports reflect the momentum of domestic demand. It seems that third-quarter gross domestic product will see an upside risk again,” Raymond Yeung, chief China economist for ANZ Bank, told Bloomberg. “The strong yuan is favorable to China if they want to buy more from the rest of the world.”
Of the major commodities, crude oil imports dipped to 33.98 million tonnes, down from 34.74 million tonnes in July, while iron ore imports lifted to 88.66 million tonnes, up from 86.25 million a month earlier.
Copper imports were unchanged at 390,000 tonnes.
With the Chinese yuan up 0.7% against the US dollar, currency movements had a negligible impact on the year-on-year figures in August.
Indeed, in yuan denominated terms, exports grew by 6.9% while imports rose by 14.4%.
With import growth outperforming exports during the month, the nation’s trade surplus narrowed to $41.99 billion.
That was below the $46.74 billion level of July and missed forecasts for an increase to $48.60 billion.
While the overall trade surplus narrowed, the surplus with the United States rose to $26.23 billion, up from $25.2 billion in July.
The increase likely reflects US dollar weakness over the month.