Exports, imports soar past forecasts in China

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BEIJING Chinese exports surged more than twice the expected pace last month, official data showed, providing more welcome news of improvement in the world's No. 2 economy.

The healthy trade data, which also showed imports outstripping forecasts, come as Beijing looks to tackle industrial overcapacity, winter pollution and a ballooning debt pile.

Exports jumped 12.3 per cent year-on-year to US$217.4 billion (S$294.2b), blowing past the 5.3 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.

"The robust global economy - both the developed and developing economies - has lifted China's exports," ABCI Securities economist Yao Shaohua told Bloomberg News.

Imports also expanded 17.7 per cent to US$177.2 billion, surpassing expectations of 13 per cent. The trade surplus grew to US$40.2 billion, suggesting trade tensions with China's main trading partners the US and the European Union are unlikely to let up in the near future.

There are concerns about a possible trade war since US President Donald Trump was elected last year, after the tycoon constantly accused Beijing of killing American jobs and undermining its companies.

And while he has tempered his language since taking over at the White House, tensions remain high.

Data released earlier this week showed factory activity in the country accelerated faster than expected in November. A string of previous indicators suggest the economy is stabilising - after years of slowing growth - with gross domestic product tipped to expand at a faster pace than the government's target this year.

But some economists worry that imports will not hold up in the face of looming headwinds.

Capital Economics' China Economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said: "We are sceptical that the strength of imports can be sustained..." - AFP