China Trade January 2016


China: Trade data remain weak at the outset of the year

February 15, 2016

In January, exports fell 11.2% over the same period last year, which was more pronounced than the 1.4% decrease tallied in December. January’s contraction also surprised analysts on the downside (market expectations: -3.6% year-on-year) and represented the steepest drop in 10 months. The weakness observed throughout 2015 carried into 2016, highlighting a softening global demand.

Meanwhile, imports decreased 18.8% annually in January, which followed the 7.5% decline tallied in December. While January’s drop largely exceeded the 1.8% fall that market analysts had expected, it represented the 15th straight month of contraction, adding to concerns about the state of domestic demand in China.

As imports tumbled at the outset of the year, the trade surplus soared to a new record high of USD 63.3 billion, which was larger than the USD 60.0 billion registered in the same month last year. The 12-month moving sum of the trade surplus rose from USD 602 billion in December to USD 605 billion in January, reaching yet another all-time high.

FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists project that merchandise exports will grow 2.1% in 2016, while imports will increase 1.3%, thus driving the trade balance to a surplus of USD 630 billion. For 2017, the panel expects exports to increase 2.8% and imports to rise 1.4%, while the trade surplus will widen further to USD 673 billion.

Author: Ricard Torné, Lead Economist

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China Trade Chart

China Trade12m January 2016

Note: 12-month sum of trade balance in USD billion and annual variation of the 12-month sum of exports and imports in %.
Source: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China and FocusEconomics calculations.

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