Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 11 News List

China posted record-high trade surplus last month

EXPANSIONS While exports and imports saw double-digit increases, falling prices for commodities such as copper and oil trimmed the value of inward shipments

BLOOMBERG

China’s trade surplus widened to a record last month as exports withstood the global economic slowdown and falling commodity prices reduced the import bill.

Exports rose 21.5 percent from a year earlier to US$136.4 billion after gaining 21.1 percent in August, the customs bureau said on its Web site. The trade surplus climbed to US$29.3 billion, a figure derived by deducting the value of imports from the number for exports.

China has stimulated the world’s fourth-biggest economy by cutting interest rates twice in a month to counter the financial crisis. The surplus swelled a record US$1.8 trillion in foreign-currency reserves, which may help the nation maintain growth of more than 9 percent as a global recession looms.

“It’s not a bad thing to have a relatively large trade surplus when there’s a global financial crisis,” said Wang Qian (王黔), an economist at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong.

“China’s foreign-currency holdings will help the country to survive the crisis,” Wang said.

The median forecasts in a survey of 13 economists were for export growth of 20 percent and a trade surplus of US$24.5 billion. The previous record was US$28.7 billion in August.

Imports increased 21.3 percent to US$107.1 billion after climbing 23.1 percent in the previous month. Falling prices for commodities such as copper and oil have trimmed the value of inward shipments.

Export growth is down from 25.7 percent for all of last year.

“Although the numbers look like China’s exports are holding up, the volume growth of exports has slowed to below 10 percent,” Wang said.

“Export growth will continue to weaken as the economic slowdown spreads from developed economies to emerging markets,” Wang said.

Export growth to the US slowed by 4.6 percentage points from a year earlier to 11.2 percent in the first nine months, the customs bureau said.

Trade with India “surged,” it said, with imports and exports together jumping 54.9 percent in the first nine months from a year earlier.

“Maybe world demand is providing a last gasp,” said Ben Simpfendorfer, an economist with Royal Bank of Scotland Plc in Hong Kong.

“Look for a sharp slowdown in the fourth quarter. The final two months of the year will be particularly weak as electronics exports are typically shipped during this period and they are the export sector’s growth engine,” he said.

China’s latest cut in borrowing costs, which reduced the one-year lending rate to 6.93 percent, came last week as part of an emergency coordinated bid to thaw credit markets.

The US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and four other central banks also lowered borrowing costs.

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