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Thursday, September 8, 2016, 15:12

China's Aug exports up 5.9%, imports 10.8%

By Agencies

China's Aug exports up 5.9%, imports 10.8%
A container is lifted by a crane at the port in Qingdao, in China's Shandong province on February 15, 2016. Chinese trade slumped in January, authorities said ON February 15, as both exports and imports tumbled with feeble domestic and global demand dragging on the world's second-largest economy. (PHOTO / AFP)
BEIJING - China's foreign trade improved markedly in August while pressure on the country's export growth is expected to decrease further, customs data showed on Thursday.

Exports in yuan-denominated terms rose 5.9 percent year on year in August, accelerating from 2.9 percent in July. Imports increased 10.8 percent, compared with a decline of 5.7 percent, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

That led to a monthly trade surplus of 346 billion yuan (US51.9 billion), down 5.1 percent from a year earlier.

A leading index for export outlook rose 0.9 points from July to 34.7 points, signaling less pressure on export growth in the fourth quarter of 2016, said the GAC.

The improvement came after an official survey last week pointed to expanding factory activity due to a recovery in market demand and a rebound in production.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 50.4 in August, rising from 49.9 in July and beating the market expectation of 49.8, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.

Soft global demand and industrial overcapacity have weighed on China's economy in past quarters, with the country's gross domestic product growing 6.7 percent in the second quarter of 2016, the lowest quarterly level since the global financial crisis in early 2009.

In the first eight months, foreign trade was down 1.8 percent from a year earlier, with exports dropping 1 percent and imports falling 2.9 percent, GAC data showed.

Trade surplus for the first eight months widened 5 percent from a year earlier to 2.31 trillion yuan.

Foreign trade with the European Union, China's biggest trade partner, climbed 3.5 percent year on year in the first eight months. Trade with the United States, China's second-biggest trade partner, fell 3.2 percent, and that with ASEAN, its third-largest trade partner, declined 1.1 percent.

In the same period, China's iron ore imports rose 9.3 percent by volume, while that of crude oil and coal surged 13.5 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively.

China's exports have struggled for over a year amid stubbornly sluggish global demand, adding to the drag on the world's second-largest economy, which posted its slowest growth in a quarter of a century in 2015.

Imports have also been mired in a long slump, but declines have been slowly moderating recently thanks to a rebound in global commodity prices.

A trade recovery would help ease fears that China's economy is becoming increasingly lopsided, and give feeble global growth a much-needed shot in the arm.

China's policymakers have become more reliant on higher government spending on infrastructure and a housing boom to drive economic growth as private investment fizzles and exports remained sluggish.

A surge in commodity prices, due in part to Beijing's efforts to reduce excess capacity in heavy industries and mining, has also supported trade figures and given a badly needed boost to business confidence.

Some Chinese steel plants are turning in the best margins in at least three years as prices rise and demand for building materials increases.

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