BEIJING (AFP) -- China's exports surged 11.5 percent year-on-year in March to $160.8 billion, authorities said Wednesday, in a positive sign for the world’s second-largest economy.
Imports fell for the 17th consecutive month, dropping 7.6 percent on-year to $131 billion, Customs said, while the trade surplus leaped to $29.9 billion, nearly 10 times the dollar figure for the same month last year.
The data beat expectations, with a Bloomberg poll of economists predicting a 10 percent increase in exports in dollar terms.
As the world's second-largest economy and biggest trader in goods China is a pillar of global trade, with its performance impacting supplier and destination countries from Australia to Zambia.
Overseas shipments snapped an eight-month streak of declines that were caused by waning global demand, culminating in a plunge of more than 25 percent in dollar terms in February.
But the figures were helped by having a low basis of comparison, as exports plunged 15 percent year-on-year in March 2015.
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said before the release that exports would be “helped mainly by the low base” due to seasonal distortions around the Lunar New Year holiday, with imports lifted by “better investment demand and shallower commodity price deflation.”
“Given the weak external demand, exports may return to normal levels but are unlikely to further improve much,” analysts at CICC said before the report, according to Bloomberg News.
Customs said in a statement that while figures for the first quarter showed a yearly decline, seasonally adjusted monthly data were recovering.
“The import volume of major bulk commodities such as iron ore, crude oil, and copper maintained growth, while the prices of major import commodities remained low,” it said.
During the first three months of the year, China’s trade with the European Union, U.S. and ASEAN all declined.
“There remain obvious obstacles facing China's foreign trade development,” Customs said.
Customs initially gave the figures in yuan terms, which showed an 18.7 percent rise in exports and imports slipping 1.7 percent.
Customs spokesman Huang Songping attributed March export growth to the low comparison base as well as government policy support.
He said that free-trade agreements, improvement in the ailing manufacturing sector, and a stable yuan exchange rate were additional positive factors.
But he added: “The world economy still faces many uncertainties.”
Risk factors for world trade included major economies’ monetary policies, possible competitive currency devaluations, geopolitical conflicts, and rising protectionism, he said.
“The trade situation remains severe and complicated and the downward pressures are still big,” he told reporters.
“But positive factors that will promote trade are accumulating,” he added, expecting Chinese trade to “stabilize and improve” this year.