Sat, Apr 14, 2018 - Page 10 News List

China’s March trade balance weakens

NOT ALL GLOOM:Chinese stocks fell yesterday, however, domestic and foreign demand held up well last month, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said


China’s global trade balance swung to a rare deficit last month as exports shrank, but its surplus with the US, the center of a worsening dispute with Washington, stood at US$15.4 billion.

Exports contracted 2.7 percent from a year earlier to US$174.1 billion, down from the 24.4 percent growth for January and February, customs data showed yesterday.

Imports rose 14.4 percent to US$179.1 billion, although that was down from 21.7 percent growth in January and February.

Chinese stocks fell yesterday as softer-than-expected exports rekindled worries over the health of the world’s second-largest economy amid rising trade tensions with the US.

The blue-chip CSI300 index closed down 0.7 percent at 3,871.14, while the Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.7 percent to 3,159.05. For the week, CSI300 gained 0.4 percent, while SSEC was up 0.9 percent.

“The upshot is that the latest trade data suggest that both domestic and foreign demand held up well in March,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report.

The trade surplus with the US contracted 13 percent from a year earlier, while China’s global trade balance swung to a US$5 billion deficit.

US President Donald Trump has approved a possible tariff hike on US$50 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing has been stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology. Trump is demanding Beijing take steps to narrow its trade deficit with the US, which Washington said stood at a record US$375.2 billion last year.

China runs multibillion-dollar monthly surpluses with Europe and the US, which helps to offset deficits with Japan, South Korea and developing countries that supply industrial components and raw materials. The global trade balance often slips into deficit for one month early each year as factories restock following the Lunar New Year holiday.

“The biggest risk going forward is clearly that the current trade tensions escalate to the point where meaningful tariff barriers are erected, but even if this is avoided, trade looks likely to soften slightly over the coming quarters given that global growth now appears past its peak and China’s own economy faces rising headwinds from tighter policy,” Evans-Pritchard said.

Forecasters have been expecting Chinese economic growth to weaken since late last year after regulators tightened controls to cool a boom in bank lending and real-estate sales they worry is driving a dangerous rise in debt.

Meanwhile, China’s trade surplus with the 28-nation EU, its biggest trading partner, shrank by half from the previous year to US$3.6 billion.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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