In February, exports soared 44.5 percent from the previous year to USD 171.6 billion, far above estimates of a 13.6 percent growth and after a 11.1 percent increase in a month earlier. It was the strongest rise in outbound shipments in three years. Sales of steel rose to 4.85 million tonnes from 4.65 million tonnes in the preceding month.
Imports increased by 6.3 percent to USD 137.9 billion, below consensus of a 9.7 percent rise and following a 36.8 percent growth in January. Amid the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, purchases fell for: copper (352 million tonnes from 440 million tonnes in January); crude oil (32.26 million tonnes from 40.64 million tonnes); iron ore (84.72 million tonnes from 100.34 million tonnes) and soybeans (5.42 million tonnes from 8.48 million). In addition, inbound shipments of coal were recorded at 20.9 million tonnes, the lowest since July 2017.
The trade surplus with the US, China's largest export market, narrowed slightly to USD 21.0 billion from 21.9 billion in January.
Considering January-February combined, the trade surplus came in at USD 54.3 billion, an increase of 43.6 percent from January-February 2017 combined. Exports in the period grew by 24.4 percent, much higher than a 4 percent growth in the same period a year earlier. Imports advanced 21.7 percent. The January-February trade surplus with the US stood at USD 42.9 billion.
In yuan-denominated terms, the trade surplus was at CNY 224.9 billion in February. Exports jumped by 36.2 percent year-on-year, after a 6 percent rise in January. Purchases declined by 0.2 percent, compared to a 30.2 percent gain in a month earlier. Over the January-February period combined, the trade surplus came in at CNY 362.2 billion, with exports increasing by 18 percent year-on-year while imports growing by 15.2 percent.
Trade in January and February can be distorted by the Lunar New Year holiday, with business slowing down weeks ahead of time and companies scaling back operations. This year, the holiday fell on February 16th.