China's exports rebounded in March but imports shrank for a fourth straight month and at a sharper pace, painting a mixed picture of the economy as trade talks with the United States reach their endgame.
Investors are hoping for signs of economic recovery in China to temper worries about slowing global growth, after the IMF this week downgraded its 2019 world outlook for the third time.
But veteran China watchers had said export gains may be due more to seasonal factors than any sudden turnaround in lackluster global demand, as shipments were expected to jump after long holidays in February.
March exports rose 14.2 percent from a year earlier, customs data showed on Friday, the strongest growth in five months. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 7.3 percent gain after February's 20.8 percent plunge.
Shipments picked up around 3 percent month-on-month, suggesting some improvement in foreign demand, Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. But he said exports have yet to fully recover from a sharp slowdown late last year.
Adding to the worries, China's imports fell more than expected, suggesting its domestic demand remains weak.
Imports fell 7.6 percent from a year earlier, worse than analysts' forecasts for a 1.3 percent fall and widening from February's 5.2 percent drop.
That left the country with a trade surplus of $32.64 billion for the month, according to Reuters calculations based on the official data, much larger than forecasts of $7.05 billion.
In the first quarter, exports rose 1.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports fell 4.8 percent.
A customs spokesman said he expects mild growth in both exports and imports in the current quarter.
Source : Reuters