BEIJING • China reported stronger- than-anticipated exports and imports for May despite falling commodity prices, suggesting the economy is holding up better than expected despite rising lending rates and a cooling property market.
Concerns over China landed squarely back on global investors' radar after Moody's Investors Service downgraded its credit rating last month, saying it expects the country's financial strength will erode in coming years as growth slows and debt continues to rise.
China's imports have been strong in recent months, driven largely by iron ore and other commodities used to feed a year-long construction boom, while exports have rebounded from several years of contraction, thanks to improving global demand.
While the strength of the May import data surprised economists, and suggested domestic demand remains solid, analysts still expect the world's second-largest economy to lose momentum gradually over the course of the year due to policy tightening.
Government measures to cool heated home prices are expected to dampen property investment eventually and a crackdown on riskier types of lending is pushing up financing costs.
"The strength of imports is unlikely to be sustained if, as we expect, slower credit growth feeds through into weaker economic activity in the coming quarters," Capital Economics' Julian Evans- Pritchard wrote in a note. "Export growth is also likely to edge down but should fare better than imports, given the relatively upbeat outlook for China's main trading partners."
Growth in both exports and imports accelerated from April, defying expectations of a slowdown.
Exports rose 8.7 per cent from a year ago as imports grew 14.8 per cent, official data showed yesterday.
That left the country with a trade surplus of US$40.8 billion (S$56.3 billion) for the month, the General Administration of Customs said.