Chinese trade data beats across the board as crude imports surge

STR / AFP / Getty Images

Chinese trade data for March has topped expectations, with growth in imports and exports both rising strongly from a year earlier.

Yet another sign that the global economy is improving.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), exports surged by 16.4% in US dollar terms, the fastest percentage increase recorded since February 2015.

It was also a stark turnaround from February’s 1.3% decline, which was due to distortions created by the timing of Chinese Lunar New Year in 2017 rather than any weakness from abroad.

Like the exports figure, import growth also topped forecasts, increasing by 20.3% from a year earlier in US dollar-denominated terms.

While below the 38.1% level of February, it was fractionally above the 18% increase expected. Again, distortions created by the timing of the Lunar New Year explain the volatility in the data.

In volume terms, imports of copper, crude oil, iron ore and coal all surged.

The NBS said that 430,000 tonnes of copper were imported during the month, up from 340,000 tonnes in February. Iron ore imports rose to 95.56 million tonnes, up from 83.49 million, while coal jumped to 22.09 million tonnes from 17.68 million to 22.09 million.

Crude imports went one better, soaring to 38.95 million tonnes from 31.78 million tonnes, the largest monthly total on record.

As a result of the sharp rebound in exports, the trade balance swung back to the black with a surplus of $US23.93 billion recorded.

That was above the $US10 billion level expected, and reversed the $9.15 billion deficit of February.

The across the board trade beat is yet another sign that global economic conditions are strengthening, and follows an improvement in manufacturing and services PMI surveys over recent months, including those in China.

Financial markets have reacted positively to the report, although the reaction has been stymied somewhat by heightened geopolitical concerns over Syria and North Korea at present.

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