Chinese exports surged more than twice the expected pace in November, official data showed today, providing some more welcome news pointing to improvement in the world’s number-two economy. The healthy trade data, which also showed imports outstripping forecasts, come as Beijing looks to tackle industrial overcapacity, winter pollution and a ballooning debt pile. Exports jumped 12.3 per cent year-on-year to $217.4 billion, blowing past the 5.3 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. “The robust global economy — both the developed and developing economies — has lifted China’s exports,” Yao Shaohua, an economist at ABCI Securities Co. told Bloomberg News. Imports expanded 17.7 per cent to $177.2 billion, surpassing expectations of 13 per cent. However, the trade surplus grew last month to $40.2 billion, suggesting trade tensions with China’s main trading partners the US and the European Union are unlikely to let up in the near future. There are concerns about a possible trade war since Donald Trump was elected US president last year, after the tycoon constantly accused Beijing of killing American jobs and undermining its companies.
And while he has tempered his language since taking the over at the White House, tensions remain high. Friday’s figures follow data earlier this week showing factory activity in the country accelerated faster than expected in November. A string of previous indicators suggest the economy is stabilising — after years of slowing growth — with gross domestic product tipped to expand at a faster pace than the government’s target this year. However, Beijing’s moves to wind down production at some steel factories and smelters in a drive to clean up the country’s smog-ridden cities has dragged on industrial output. The latest readings were also a positive sign for China’s transition from an investment and export driven growth model to one fuelled by the consumption of its 1.4 billion people. But there are also worries the consumer spending is being driven too much by credit.
The debt mountain is estimated at 234 percent of gross domestic product by the International Monetary Fund, which on Thursday warned it added to financial risk and may weigh on future economic growth. The IMF said that 27 out of the 33 banks it had carried out tests on — accounting for three-quarters of China’s banking system assets — were “undercapitalised relative to at least one of the minimum requirements”. It recommended banks raise capital to ward off funding issues that could arise in case of a dramatic downturn. Some economists also worry that imports will not hold up in the face of looming headwinds. “We are sceptical that the strength of imports can be sustained given that the delayed impact of policy tightening and a cooling property market are set to weigh on Chinese demand for commodities in coming quarters,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China Economist at Capital Economics.