China March Trade Surplus Beats Expectations


China's trade balance shifted to a USD 32.64 billion surplus in March 2019 from a USD 5.77 billion deficit in the same month a year earlier and easily beating market estimates of a USD 7.05 billion surplus, as exports soared while imports fell. Considering the first quarter of the year, the trade surplus widened sharply to USD 76.3 billion from USD 54.6 billion in the same period the prior year, as exports grew 1.4 percent and imports shrank 4.8 percent.

Exports rose 14.2 percent from a year earlier to USD 198.7 billion in March, rebounding from a marginally revised 20.8 percent fall in February, which was the steepest drop in three years, and beating market expectations of a 7.3 percent advance. The upturn came in amid improving global demand, trade talk optimism and after a Lunar New Year holiday. China's unwrought aluminium and aluminium product exports went up 21.3 percent from a year earlier to 546,000 tonnes in February and advanced 60.6 percent from January's revised figure of 340,000 tonnes. Also, sales of steel products increased 12 percent to 6.33 million tonnes and were up 40.3 percent from the prior month's 4.51 million tonnes. Additionally, sales of coal jumped 169 percent to 0.57 million tonnes, but dropped 13.1 percent from February's 0.65 million tonnes. Exports of rice surged 90 percent to 190,000 tonnes and were up 35.7 percent from the previous month's 140,000 tonnes. 

Among China's biggest trade partners, exports rose to the EU (8.8 percent), ASEAN countries (9.8 percent), Taiwan (11.5 percent), South Korea (5.7 percent), Japan (2.6 percent), and Australia (9.7 percent), but fell to the US (-8.5 percent).

Imports dropped 7.6 percent to USD 166 billion in March, worse than market expectations of a 1.3 percent fall and after a 5.2 percent decline in the previous month. This was the fourth straight month of decline in inbound shipments, suggesting the country's domestic demand remains weak, as purchases of soybeans decreased 13.1 percent to 4.92 million tonnes, amid higher tariff imposed on shipments from the US. Still, when compared to February's 4.45 million tonnes, soybean imports rose 10.5 percent. In addition, purchases of unwrought copper fell 9.1 percent to 391,000 tonnes, but increased 26.1 percent from the prior month's 310,000 tonnes. Also, imports of steel products dropped 26.9 percent to 0.90 million tonnes but increased 11 percent from the previous months's 0.81 million tonnes. Inbound shipments of coal fell 12.1 percent to 23.48 million tonnes, but surged 33.1 percent from the prior month's 17.64 million tonnes. In contrast, imports of iron ore went up 0.8 percent to 86.42 million tonnes and advanced 4 percent from February's 83.08 million tonnes. Additionally, purchases of copper concentrate advanced 10.4 percent to 1.767 million tonnes, but declined 8 percent month-on-month. Inbound shipments of crude oil grew 0.4 percent from a year ago to 39.34 million tonnes and advanced 0.3 percent from the previous months's 39.23 million tonnes. Also, natural gas imports increased 16.4 percent to 6.94 million tonnes, but dropped 8.2 percent from 7.56 million tonnes in February. 

Imports went down mainly from the US (-31.8 percent), ASEAN countries (-5.3 percent), South Korea (-13.5 percent), Japan (-6.1 percent) and Taiwan (-6.1 percent), but rose from the EU (1.8 percent) and Australia (4.1 percent).

The trade surplus with the US, China's largest export market, narrowed to USD 20.5 billion in March from  USD 14.72 billion in the previous period. For the January to March period, the trade surplus with the US was recorded at USD 62.66 billion.

In yuan-denominated terms, China's trade surplus came in at CNY 220 billion in March, with exports soaring 21.3 percent while imports declining 1.8 percent.

Big fluctuations in January to March China's trade data are mostly due to a Lunar New Year holiday.

China March Trade Surplus Beats Expectations


General Administration of Customs l Rida Husna | rida@tradingeconomics.com
4/12/2019 10:22:55 AM