China Trade Balance


Exports remain resilient in February

The external sector continues to show healthy growth at the outset of the year. In February, exports jumped 21.8% over the same month last year, which was below the strong 25.0% increase seen in the previous month but well above market expectations that had shipments increasing only 10.1%. As a result of the strong monthly reading, in the 12 months up to February exports grew 10.3% over the corresponding period last year (January: +10.0% year-on-year).

Simultaneously, imports contracted 15.2% in Febraury (January: +28.8% yoy), which nearly doubled the 8.8% drop anticipated by the market. In addition, the print marks the steepest fall recorded since January 2012. As a result, imports expanded only 3.9% in the 12 months up to February (January: +7.7% yoy).

As a result, the trade balance reached a surplus of USD 15.3 billion in February, contrasting both the USD 31.9 billion shortfall witnessed in the same month last year and market expectations of a USD 8.8 billion deficit. Accordingly, the 12-month moving sum of the trade balance soared from USD 233 billion in January to USD 280 billion in February.

Trade figures for the first two months of the year are highly distorted by the Lunar New Year holiday. Analysing the combined January-February period, exports expanded 23.6% over the same period last year (January-February 2012: +6.9% yoy), while imports increased only 5.0% (January-February 2012: +7.7% yoy), driving the trade surplus to USD 44.4 billion (January-February 2012: USD 2.4 billion deficit).

FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast participants project merchandise exports will grow 9.1% in 2013 to USD 2.2 trillion, while the trade surplus will narrow to USD 211 billion from USD 231 billion in 2012. For 2014, panellists expect exports will increase by 10.8%, while the trade surplus will shrink further to USD 198 billion.

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China Trade Balance Chart

China Trade12m February 2013

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