China exports jump 11.5% in March, first increase since June 2015

A man rides a vehicle past container boxes at a port in Shanghai.
A man rides a vehicle past container boxes at a port in Shanghai.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - China's March exports blew past analyst expectations, rising 11.5 per cent from a year earlier, the first increase since June and the largest rise since Feb 2015. Shares rallied on the news.

Imports fell by 13.8 per cent from a year earlier, more than expected.

That left the country with a trade surplus of US$29.86 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said on Wednesday (April 13).

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected exports to rise by 2.5 per cent, and predicted imports would fall by 10.2 per cent.

But China's trade still faces relatively big downward pressure this year, customs spokesman Huang Songping said on Wednesday.

Mr Huang told a news conference that strong exports in March were in part due to a low base of comparison last year and supportive policies.

Still, economists said the export rebound may suggest China's economy fared better than expected in the first quarter, with data due on Friday expected to show a 6.7 per cent expansion for the period.

The increase in shipments may indicate more than seasonal factors and could show a pick up in demand, said Iris Pang, a Greater China economist at Natixis in Hong Kong.

"This is quite encouraging indeed," she said. Still, it's too soon to conclude that the worst is over for the nation's exporters, and "we need more evidence to confirm that the whole manufacturing sector is on track again."

China stocks jumped on the news with the Shanghai Composite Index up 2.3 per cent as of 10:31 am local time, while shares also advanced from Hong Kong to Tokyo.

The Australian dollar, a proxy for China's trade prospects due to its raw materials shipments to the country, also climbed.

Many economic indicators improved in the first quarter, Premier Li Keqiang said in a recent meeting with Germany's foreign minister, according to a report last week by Chinese state television. The improving trend in the economy is not solid, impacted by a sluggish global economy and market volatility, Mr Li said, according to the broadcast.