Beijing ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Contrary to forecasts and analysis, the Chinese trade balance recorded a surplus in January, of 31.9 billion dollars, much higher than both the 25.6 billion in December 2013 and 23.7 billion estimates. Exports surged by 10.6 % annually in January (compared to forecast of 2%) imports also increasing (+10%), the biggest figure since last July. The value of imports grew at a pace that has not been seen since July. Imports of crude oil, iron ore and copper have all reached record levels, according to customs data.
The data released by the Customs Bureau, caught markets off guard and reduced fears of a slowdown in the world's second largest economy, reported by all recently published indicators. Analysts, however, express caution, noting that the numbers could be inflated by a series of fictitious transactions to bring money back into the country bypassing the foreign exchange regulator. In particular, there is a major discrepancy in import-export figures with Hong Kong.
Authorities defend their figures and point to the beginning of the Lunar Year, which falls in some years in January and others in February, as the real positive variable. The New Year means an increase in domestic spending, industrial production offsets without exceeding demand and the internal movements of goods and people increases. The main result is that the Yuan remains under pressure for further appreciation. Some analysts say the barrier of 6.0 - up to 5.98 yuan per dollar - could be broken in 2014.
Louis Kujis, chief economist at RBS in Hong Kong, observes: "This should make markets more relaxed about both global demand and demand in China's own economy. However, we are also left with a nagging feeling that perhaps issues such as over-invoicing have risen sharply in intensity early this year".