China Gets Back to Trade Surplus

China returned to familiar territory by posting a trade surplus in April, but exports only narrowly topped imports, providing limited comfort for policymakers fearful of another round of global economic turmoil., reuters 5/10/2010 10:11:14 AM

China recorded a $1.7 billion trade surplus last month, defying expectations for a second straight deficit after March's $7.2 billion shortfall.

But if a trade surplus is the normal state of affairs for the world's largest exporting nation, the new normal could be smaller surpluses, reflecting China's growing domestic demand and the relatively frail health of the world's other major economies.

Exports rose an annual 30.5 percent in April, topping forecasts for 28.9 percent growth. Imports were up 49.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with predictions for a 53.8 percent increase.

China has frozen its currency against the dollar since mid-2008, trying to cushion its exporters from the global financial crisis.

Speculation had swirled in recent weeks that it was only a matter of time before Beijing let the exchange rate resume appreciation, but many analysts believe that international jitters in the wake of Greece's debt crisis could stay its hand.

China's leaders have said they want to be sure that external demand has made a sustained recovery before unwinding policies introduced at the height of the global credit crunch, including the yuan's de facto peg and a range of tax rebates given to exporters.

But the world's third-largest economy slipped into a trade deficit in March -- its first in six years -- more because of domestic vigour than external weakness.

With China growing 11.9 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, its appetite for energy and raw materials has been voracious.

April may prove something of an inflection point, with base effects over the rest of the year likely to push export growth rates higher, while the pace of import increases slows.

Exports rose 11.4 percent in month-on-month calendar adjusted terms, while imports were up 6.9 percent, the Chinese customs authority said.


China Gets Back to Trade Surplus