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May 9, 2019

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Exports retreat but imports soar to a 6-month high in April

CHINA’S exports growth retreated in April, while growth in imports rose to a six-month high, according to China Customs yesterday.

The nation’s total foreign trade rose 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 9.51 trillion yuan (US$1.41 trillion) in the first four months, the General Administration of Customs said yesterday.

Exports increased by 5.7 percent year on year to 5.06 trillion yuan during this period, while imports rose by 2.9 percent to 4.45 trillion yuan, expanding the trade surplus by 31.8 percent to 618.17 billion yuan.

As for the April figure, China’s import and export value totaled 2.51 trillion yuan, up by 6.5 percent year on year. Exports rose 3.1 percent to 1.3 trillion yuan from a year earlier, lower than the expected 8 percent growth and the 21.3 percent jump in the previous month.

Imports, however, increased by 10.3 percent to 1.21 trillion yuan in April from the same period last year, faster than the expected 3 percent, reversing the 1.8 percent decline in March.

In dollar terms, export growth fell to a worse-than-expected level, falling 2.7 percent year on year in April, compared with the 14.2 percent rise in March, while import growth rose to a higher-than-expected 4 percent, reversing the precious 7.6 percent drop.

The trade surplus shrank to US$13.8 billion last month from US$32.6 billion in March.

“We believe the slowdown in export growth was mainly due to calendar-related effects from the Lantern Festival, which was on March 2 last year but on February 19 this year, and payback effects after March’s front-loading of exports to avoid a reduction in value-added tax rebates,” said Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura.

In mid-March, China announced a cut in VAT on manufactured goods to 13 percent from 16 percent which became effective on April 1.

“In the same vein, the VAT cuts may have lowered import growth in March and led to the rise in April, as importers were inclined to postpone customs clearing of imports from March to April to pay the lower VAT rate on imported goods,” Lu said yesterday.

By region, China’s foreign trade with the US retreated in the first four months from the same period last year, and the trade surplus expanded.

China’s exports to the US contracted 4.8 percent in January-April year on year, while imports from the US declined 26.8 percent, leading to a trade surplus reaching 570.19 billion yuan, up 10.5 percent

China’s imports and exports to major markets such as the European Union, ASEAN and Japan all posted rises, and those to countries along the Belt and Road grew at a faster pace than the overall rate.

In terms of commodities, crude oil and natural gas imports increased in the January-April period, while imports of soybean declined.

In April alone, Chinese crude oil imports hit an all-time high, and soybean imports posted the biggest month-on-month rise of 55 percent. Iron ore imports, however, tumbled to an 18-month low due to reduced shipments from Brazil.

Also of note, imports and exports from private enterprises increased rapidly, accounting for a higher proportion of the overall figure.

In the first four months, private enterprises’ imports and exports totaled 3.9 trillion yuan, up 11 percent, accounting for 41 percent of China’s total foreign trade, up 2.5 percent from the same period last year.

Exports increased by 13.1 percent to 2.53 trillion yuan, making up 49.9 percent of the total, while imports rose 7.3 percent to 1.37 trillion yuan, accounting for 30.7 percent of overall imports.


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