China Dec. exports, imports fall much less than expected after yuan slides

Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:08am EST
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By Xiaoyi Shao and Sue-Lin Wong

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's total trade fell in December but far less than expected, with exports outperforming many of its regional peers after the country let the yuan depreciate sharply, highlighting fears of a currency war among Asia's trade-reliant economies.

"The trade data support our view that, despite turmoil in Chinese financial markets, there has not been a major deterioration in its economy in recent months," Daniel Martin, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

Exports from the world's largest trading nation fell 1.4 percent from a year earlier, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday, much less than a Reuters poll forecast for an 8 percent drop and moderating from November's 6.8 percent decline.

They also sharply outperformed exports from neighboring countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, analysts noted, and came in the face of entrenched weakness in overseas demand.

December imports fell 7.6 percent, receding for the 14th straight month but not as sharply as feared, possibly due to factories stocking up on crude oil, iron ore and other materials as global resource and commodity prices continued to fall.

Indeed, China's crude oil imports hit a record high, while copper imports were the second highest on record.

Economists had forecast an 11.5 percent import slide, after an 8.7 percent drop in November.

The combination produced a $60.09 billion trade surplus for December, compared with economists' expectations of $53 billion and November's $54.1 billion.   Continued...

A truck drives past shipping containers at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province January 23, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily