BEIJING, China (AFP) – China’s imports and exports showed an unexpected jump in July, government data showed Thursday in a positive sign for the world’s second-biggest economy after persistent weakness raised concerns over growth.
Bigger-than-expected gains in imports outpaced those of exports, causing the overall trade surplus to fall 29.6 percent year-on-year to $17.8 billion, Customs announced.
Analysts saw the trade data as largely positive after mixed messages last week when private and official surveys of the country’s important manufacturing sector showed contradictory results.
China’s economy — seen as a potential driver of global recovery — recorded its worst performance in 13 years in 2012, with gross domestic product expanding 7.8 percent.
Analysts had expected a rebound this year, but growth dipped to 7.7 percent in the January-March period and slowed further to 7.5 percent in the second quarter. Several other statistics have also indicated weakness.
Beijing is attempting to rebalance the Asian giant away from reliance on investment and exports and towards consumer spending as the main driver for growth.
The trade figures marked a rebound after exports and imports both declined in June, with the gain in imports being the first since April.
Exports increased 5.1 percent year-on-year to $186.0 billion, while imports rose 10.9 percent to $168.2 billion, the data showed.
Two-way trade rose 7.8 percent year-on-year, slightly lower than the government’s eight percent target for this year but “showing a stabilising and recovering trend”, according to Customs.
The figures surprised analysts.
A survey of 14 economists by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast exports to gain a median 2.8 percent and imports to rise 1.3 percent. The median prediction for the trade surplus was $27.2 billion.
Alaistair Chan, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, called the results surprisingly good, though cautioned against overoptimism.