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China trade data inject hope
Publication Date : 09-08-2013
China's trade surplus used to be the focus of global attention. But it is now the country's surging trade growth that is in the spotlight.
After a 3.1 per cent fall in June, exports rose 5.1 per cent year-on-year in July, while imports soared by 10.9 per cent year-on-year compared with a 0.7 per cent year-on-year drop in June.
The stronger-than-expected growth rates have overshadowed the contraction in the country's monthly trade surplus, which dropped to US$17.8 billion in July, down 29.6 per cent on a year ago.
But while the strong growth in both exports and imports points to a mild improvement in both external and internal demand, with domestic activities strengthening in a reassuring manner--thanks to the country's targeted measures to stabilise economic growth--it is apparent that foreign demand remains weak and domestic economic activities are still at low levels.
However, the morale-boosting figures were released at a time when the global economy is struggling with a slow and volatile recovery--among the other major economies, only the US economy has been showing signs of solid growth--so it is no surprise the data have been welcomed as a possible prelude to an eagerly awaited economic recovery in the world's second-largest economy.
After dipping to as low as 7.5 per cent in the second quarter, the figures have raised expectations that China's economic growth might have bottomed out, as the government's efforts to boost growth amid economic restructuring start to take effect.
The increasing manufacturing and services activities, signaled by the rising official Purchasing Managers' Index for July, also suggest a gradual improvement in economic fundamentals.
Yet it would be rash to anticipate any strong surge in China's economic indicators.
An alarm was rung by the HSBC manufacturing PMI, which mainly tracks small enterprises in the export sector, as it dropped to 47.7 in July from 48.2 in June, signaling possible trade volatility in the coming months.
In particular, the sub-indexes measuring new export orders in both the official and HSBC PMI revealed contraction in July.
Therefore, more data, including inflation, industrial output and retail sales, need to be monitored before it can be confidently asserted without fear of contradiction that the Chinese economy is solidly on the up again.