BEIJING (AFP) ― China’s trade surplus surged in January, according to data Wednesday that showed exports strengthening in a potentially brighter note for the world’s second-biggest economy after a disappointing performance of late.
The surplus rose 14.0 percent year-on-year in January to $31.86 billion, the General Administration of Customs said, rebounding from a decline the previous month.
Exports jumped more than expected, increasing 10.6 percent to $207.13 billion, while imports were up 10.0 percent at $175.27 billion.
The median forecast in a survey of 11 economists by The Wall Street Journal predicted only a 0.1 percent increase in exports, which had risen 4.3 percent in December. In that month, the overall trade surplus had fallen 17.4 percent year-on-year to $25.64 billion.
“Exports and consumption could be the bright spots for the Chinese economy this year,” Mizuho economist Shen Jianguang said.
China’s annual trade in goods passed the $4 trillion mark for the first time in 2013, when the country probably surpassed the United States as the world’s largest physical trading nation.
But recent signals for the economy have been mixed.
China’s official purchasing managers’ index, a gauge of its manufacturing sector, slipped to a five-month low in January, confirming a slowdown in factory activity.
British bank HSBC, meanwhile, announced that China’s manufacturing sector shrank in January for the first time in six months, with its PMI index recording 49.5, placing it in contraction territory.
January’s trade and manufacturing results came after China’s economy registered flat growth of 7.7 percent in 2013, maintaining its slowest expansion in more than a decade.
Gross domestic product expansion for the October-December quarter also came in at 7.7 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said last month, slowing from 7.8 percent in the previous three months.
The 2013 GDP figure was the same as that for 2012 ― which was the worst rate of growth since 1999 ― although it exceeded the government’s growth target for the year, which was declared as 7.5 percent.
China’s economy is expected to slow to 7.5 percent this year, according to the median forecast in a survey of 14 economists by AFP last month.
China is a key driver of the global economy but is widely seen as facing slower expansion in the years ahead. Its leaders have vowed to change its growth model so that consumers and other private actors play the leading role, rather than huge and often wasteful state investment.
Within the past decade Chinese growth was regularly in double digits, but it has been on a slowing trend and the 2013 GDP result showed growth in single figures for three consecutive years for the first time since 2002.