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China August exports beat, but imports miss

Karl Johaentges | Look | Getty Images

China released its latest batch of trade data on Monday which showed that while foreign demand remains healthy, domestic demand appears subdued.

Exports in August jumped 9.4 percent from the year-ago period, beating estimates for an 8 percent gain and following the 14.5 percent rise in the month before.

But imports fell an annual 2.4 percent, versus expectations of a 1.7 percent increase and after a decline of 1.6 percent in July.

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This brought the trade surplus to a new record high of $49.8 billion, topping a Reuters poll expecting $40 billion and surpassing July's peak of $47.3 billion.

Asian markets were little changed from where they were trading before the trade data. The Australian dollar was flat against the greenback.

"Slower import growth reflects cooling investment, particularly in the property sector, which has weighed on commodity demand," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, chief economist at Capital Economics.

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"Looking ahead, we expect exports to remain healthy as conditions in developed markets continue to improve. Meanwhile, subdued commodity demand is likely to remain a drag on import growth. As a result, we expect China to continue to post large trade surpluses, which should put further upwards pressure on the renminbi," he added.

Recent patchy Chinese economic data have raised concerns over the health of the world's second biggest economy. Manufacturing activity slowed in August, while credit flows into the economy fell to the lowest level in nearly six years in July. The housing sector, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the economy, remains a worry after new home prices fell for a third straight month in July.

Beijing has unleashed a burst of stimulus in recent months to prop up the economy, which some analysts say will support growth for a while.

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Morgan Stanley on Monday raised its GDP forecasts for China to 7.3 percent in 2014, compared to an earlier estimate of 7 percent. Beijing has set 7.5 percent as its official growth target for this year.

"Our 2014 forecast upgrade reflects the sooner-than-expected lift from the mini stimulus in Q2, as external demand improvement and faster infrastructure investment growth have more than offset the slowdown in property sector," the bank's analysts said in a note.

"We expect targeted easing measures to remain as the key toolset to keep financial conditions loose, with a lower probability of a universal rate cut, " they added.

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