However, analysts who had expected the Lunar New Year holiday to
drag on the month's trade flows cautioned that the data may have
been inflated by fake transactions, where traders forge deals so as
to sneak cash into the country past capital controls.
The value of China's total exports climbed 10.6 percent in January
from a year earlier, the Customs Administration said on Wednesday,
more than five times market forecasts for a 2 percent rise.
The value of imports jumped 10 percent from a year ago, a pace not
seen since July and handily beating market predictions for a 3
percent gain. Imports of crude oil, iron ore and copper all hit
record highs, according to customs data.
The country's trade surplus rose to $31.9 billion, well above
forecasts of $23.7 billion and December's $25.6 billion.
"This should allay some fears about a slowdown but I'm also not sure
how much comfort we can take from these numbers," said Louis Kujis,
an RBS economist in Hong Kong.
"We know that a year ago there was some massive invoicing taking
place. If you think about the incentives for over-invoicing, they
are again very strong because of the interest rate differentials."
A run of underwhelming economic data from China in recent weeks had
steeled investors for another disappointment on Wednesday, as
markets braced themselves for more signs that the economy is losing
[to top of second column]
Fears of a sharper-than-expected loss of momentum in China were
believed to be one contributing factor in a fierce global financial
market selloff in January, with emerging markets hit particularly
Four separate purchasing managers' indices had shown China's factory
and services sectors sliding to multi-month or multi-year lows in
January as celebrations for the Lunar New Year, China's biggest
annual holiday, reduced the number of work hours. Many factories and
offices close for long periods during the festivities.
A resilient Chinese economy is good news for the world, particularly
for major commodity exporters such as Australia.
Already the world's biggest exporter, China may overtake the United
States to be the world's largest importer this year, HSBC Bank has
Economists expect China's economy to grow at its slackest pace in 14
years this year at 7.4 percent. But even them, it is still expected
to add twice as much demand to the world economy than the United
States, HSBC said.
(Reporting by Shao Xiaoyi and Koh Gui
Qing; editing by Kim Coghill)
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