China trade enjoys forecast-beating surge in August

Beijing (AFP) –


China's exports and imports enjoyed forecast-beating growth in August, with data on Tuesday showing overseas demand for cars, electronics and consumer goods surged as a domestic coronavirus outbreak was brought to heel.

The figures follow a recent spate of weak numbers that had suggested the recovery in the world's second-biggest economy was flattening owing to a spike in the Delta variant that has forced some countries to impose containment measures and hit consumer sentiment.

They also came despite the shutdown of a major port caused by the virus outbreak, which observers had expected to hit shipments.

Exports jumped 25.6 percent on-year, while imports rose 33.1 percent, according to China customs authorities. The readings were both sharply up from July and far better than estimates in a Bloomberg survey of 17.3 percent and 26.9 percent, respectively.

The eye-popping numbers were boosted by last year's low base of comparison when the virus was rapidly spreading.

Analysts said outbound shipments were helped by improving overseas demand for consumer goods.

A rebound in electronics, furniture and recreational products likely reflected that retailers were "replenishing their inventories ahead of the Christmas shopping season", said Capital Economics assistant economist Sheana Yue.

ING's chief economist for Greater China Iris Pang added that a sharp jump in car exports was an "amazing" feat, given a global semiconductor shortage that has weighed on the auto industry.

"It shows that (China) has the production capacity for semiconductors and also cars, and therefore can grow its exports," she told AFP.

Exports of electronic products rose over the first eight months of the year, the customs administration said in a statement.

But Yue of Capital Economics expected trade volumes to fall in the coming quarters, with factory activity edging down in recent months.

"The PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) export orders indices –- which measure the share of firms seeing rising orders –- has remained under 50 for three consecutive months," she said, suggesting that foreign demand is coming off the boil.

Meanwhile, customs authorities said imports were boosted by a surge in the cost of commodities such as iron ore, oil and coal, which offset a fall in the amount of goods entering the country.

China's trade surplus came in at $58.3 billion, up 2.2 percent on-year and higher than the $53.2 billion expected.