BEIJING – China’s exports surprisingly accelerated last month, suggesting a pickup in global demand for Chinese goods after a drop-off late last year.
Exports surged 9.1% from a year earlier in January, according to data from the General Administration of Customs released on Thursday.
January’s rise reverses a 4.4% decline in December and beat the expectations of many economists, who had forecast another decrease. Imports, however, dropped for a second consecutive month, though the 1.5% decline last month compared with January a year ago is less steep than December’s 7.6% drop and smaller than many economists projected.
January’s better-than-expected performance, economists said, likely came in part from exporters hurrying out orders ahead of February’s Lunar New Year holiday and before the ceasefire in the United States-China trade war expires on March 1.
“Today’s data are indeed much stronger than we had expected,” said Shuang Ding, an economist at Standard Chartered.
Negotiations between US and Chinese officials under way in Beijing this week are trying to resolve the yearlong trade dispute that has rattled global markets and seen both countries’ place tariffs on goods that account for about 60% of their trade.
The US has said it would raise punitive tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods on March 2 to 25%, from 10%, unless the two sides reach an agreement.
January’s trade data showed that while China’s trade surplus with all trading partners stood at $39.16 billion – much smaller than the $57.06 billion surplus recorded in December – the surplus with the US moderated less, reaching $27.3 billion, compared with $29.87 billion in December.
“The US won’t probably be comfortable with today’s bilateral data,” Ding said.
In particular, he pointed to a 41.2% on-year drop in Chinese imports from US.
China’s exports to the US fell 2.4% from a year earlier in January, compared with a 3.5% decline in December, the customs data showed.
Chinese officials have promised to step up purchases of US farm and energy products in bilateral trade talks. Beijing also lowered its tariffs levied on some US goods.