China has announced an unexpected surge in March exports, signalling strong global demand despite the Japanese earthquake and high global oil prices.
On a quarterly basis, China recorded its first trade deficit since 2004 in the first quarter, the General Administration of Customs said on Sunday. The first quarter trade deficit of $1.02bn reflected domestic economic strength and rising commodity prices, analysts said.
But Zheng Yuesheng, statistics chief at the customs administration, told state television the first-quarter deficit was likely to be only “temporary”。 And a late surge in exports, which rose 35.8 per cent year on year in March, boosted the trade balance narrowly into positive territory for March, with a $140m surplus.
The trade figures come at a time when analysts are assessing the impact of the Japanese disaster on the global economy. “The stronger-than-expected export numbers demonstrated the resilience of external demand in March, for now shrugging off the impact of the Japanese earthquake and surging global oil prices,” said Qu Hongbin, of HSBC in Hong Kong.
“China’s exports are likely to feel a small pinch due to the distortion of [the] supply chain in the months right after the Japanese quake,” he said. But he noted the negative impact was likely to be limited since Japan accounted for only 8 per cent of total Chinese exports, the rest of the world was still on track for recovery and Japanese disruption was likely to prove only temporary.
The higher-than-expected rise in the value of imports – which climbed 32.6 per cent year on year in the first quarter – underlines the strength of the domestic economy but also high commodity prices. “The value of imports in the first quarter hit a record high for the first time of more than $400bn,” said the customs administration.
For instance, import prices of iron ore, key for Chinese steelmakers, jumped 59.5 per cent in the first quarter year on year, the customs administration said. Soyabean import prices rose 25.7 per cent.
“All these imply that inflation rather than growth is the key macro risk for China,” said Mr Qu. “The strength in domestic demand, plus the stronger than expected export growth, provide leeway for Beijing to continue to focus on checking inflation.”
Many economists expect Beijing to continue tightening bank reserve ratios and interest rates in coming months as they struggle to tame inflation to ensure social stability.
2011-04-14 11:40 编辑：icetonado