China November trade data defy expectations as exports, imports expand

Workers at the Zhong Tian (Zenith) Steel Group factory in Changzhou, Jiangsu.
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

China's November exports rose 0.1 percent on-year on a dollar denominated basis, reversing October's 7.3 percent decline, Reuters reported on Thursday citing official data.

Imports meanwhile grew at the fastest pace since September 2014, rising 6.7 percent from a year ago. Imports into China fell 1.4 percent in October.

That brought the November trade surplus to $44.61 billion versus $49.06 billion in October.

Reuters had predicted a 5.0 percent decline for exports, a 1.3 percent decline for imports and a $46.3 billion trade surplus.

In Chinese yuan terms, exports expanded expanded 5.9 percent while imports rose 13 percent from a year ago.

"The improvement (in exports) reflects a strengthening in global demand, with recent business surveys suggesting that developed economies are on track to end the year on a strong note," wrote Capital Economic's China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard in a note Thursday.

Meanwhile, China's imports also improved, reflecting a recent pick-up in the price of industrial commodities that likely pushed up import values, he said.

China growth is slowly decreasing: Economist

In addition, "import volumes probably continued to hold up well given signs that China's economic recovery remained largely intact last month," he added.

Despite a fall in the Chinese yuan, shipments of major commodities into China including iron ore, crude oil, coal and copper also rose in November, reported Reuters.

Despite the November bounce, overall exports in the first 11 months of the year still fell 7.5 percent from a year ago while imports declined 6.2 percent, according to Reuters calculations.

Sally Auld, a fixed income and foreign exchange strategist at JPMorgan, said the data still reflected a story of "slowly decreasing growth". The bank has a 6.4 percent GDP forecast for China in 2017, down from around 6.7 percent this year.

"We seem to go through these phases where at one point in the year, the Chinese authorities are focused on the re-balancing story that tends to be not especially positive for high frequency data, then we move into another phase where the focus becomes less about re-balancing and more about growth. It feels like that's exactly where we are right now and where we've been for the last couple of months," she told CNBC's "Capital Connection".

China's trade data release on Thursday come on the back of two Purchasing Managers' Index readings last week pointing to better-than-expected growth.

While recent data point to upside in the Chinese economy, worries about debt persist, contributing to concerns about downside risk in the medium-term, she added.

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