China's kicks off 2017 with above-forecast trade numbers

China's kicks off 2017 with above-forecast trade numbers

China's kicks off 2017 with above-forecast trade numbers

January data also benefited from a more favorable comparison to a year earlier, when shipments slumped 10.9 percent in yuan terms.

Imports also exceeded expectations, rising 16.7 percent year-on-year to $131.4 billion, while the trade surplus climbed to $51.3 billion, beating estimates by more than $2 billion. The holiday started in late January this year, compared to the early February break last year.

China's trade performance rebounded strongly last month with an unexpected bounce in both imports and exports.

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China watchers caution that trends in January and February can be distorted by the long Lunar New Year holidays, with business slowing down weeks ahead of time and many firms scaling back operations or closing.

China's crude imports in January rose 27.5 percent from a year earlier to the third-highest volume ever, suggesting robust demand to fill storage and to make up the shortfall as domestic production continues to fall. In total, China imported 381 million metric tons of crude past year, showing a 13.6 percent increase.

Export from China to Russian Federation rose 29.5% to $3.4 bln. China was not the only beneficiary, Hong said, citing the export improvements of South Korea. The low base past year might partially explain the solid recovery in imports, but it is also likely related to the still strong investment in the property market.

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Commodity imports, such as iron ore, crude oil and coal, continued to grow in January, featuring general price rises.

However, the new year will also bring new challenges and uncertainties to China's foreign trade. Zhao Zhongxiu, Vice-president of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, commented: "Trade has benefited from a number of government measures meant to stabilise exports and promote economic growth".

Chinese exporters suffered a record 119 trade remedy investigations initiated by 27 countries and regions a year ago, 36.8 percent more than 2015.

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Meanwhile, trade with the United States, China's second-biggest trade partner, rose by 21.9 percent.

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