China’s trade accelerated last month in a possible positive sign for its shaky economic recovery.
Exports rose 14.7 percent over a year earlier, up from March’s 10 percent growth, customs data showed yesterday. Imports gained 16.8 percent, up from the previous month’s 14.1 percent.
The stronger data suggest that the growth of the world’s second-largest economy might be improving after an unexpected decline to 7.7 percent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter’s 7.9 percent.
Some analysts suggest Chinese trade data are distorted by reporting errors and unreliable as an economic indicator. Still, last month’s stronger numbers might help to reassure companies and investors after the weaker first-quarter growth jolted global financial markets.
“Subdued actual export growth in April points to sluggish global demand,” RBS economists Louis Kuijs and Tiffany Qiu (邱小村) said in a report. “Reasonable import growth suggests domestic demand has held up better so far.”
Surveys by HSBC Corp and a Chinese industry group showed Chinese manufacturing growth weakened last month. HSBC said new export orders fell for the first time this year.
The stronger gains in imports last month compared with exports caused China’s global trade surplus to narrow by about 1 percent, though to a still-wide US$18.2 billion.
China runs a deficit with most of its trading partners, which supply oil, other raw materials and industrial components, and makes up for it by running large surpluses with its US and European export markets.
China’s exports to Europe, hurt by the continent’s debt troubles, declined 6.5 percent to US$25.9 billion and the surplus with the 27-nation EU narrowed by 32 percent to US$7.9 billion.
Exports to the US edged down by a fraction of 1 percent to US$28.1 billion, while the trade gap with the US narrowed by 13 percent to US$14.7 billion.
China’s data on exports have been under scrutiny since some analysts found last year that they failed to match up with its trading partners’ lower figures for their purchases of Chinese goods.
Some analysts suggested Chinese exporters might be inflating values on customs declarations as a way to evade Beijing’s currency controls and bring money into the country for investment.
Kuijs and Qiu said that after factoring out irregularities, they estimated China’s exports rose by only about 5.7 percent last month, about 9 percentage points lower than the reported level. They said they saw no obvious irregularities in import data and no reason to inflate the values of goods.