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China March trade balance surplus hits $23.9 billion, higher than expected $10 billion

Trucks work in a port in Qingdao, China.
Feature China | Barcroft Images | Getty Images
Trucks work in a port in Qingdao, China.

China's exports rose 16.4 percent in March from a year ago, beating a Reuters' analyst forecast of 3.2 percent to reverse a decline of 1.3 percent in February, data from the Chinese customs showed Thursday.

The country's imports rose 20.3 percent on-year, down from a surge of 38.1 percent a month ago, but still above the rise of 18.0 percent analysts predicted.

China's trade surplus in U.S. dollar terms was $23.93 billion in March, more than double the $10 billion analysts had forecast. The world's second largest economy posted a rare $9.15 billion trade deficit in February.

Exports in the first quarter of the year rose 8.2 percent from the same period last year, while imports surged 24.0 percent. China's first-quarter trade surplus was $65.61 billion.

In yuan terms, China's imports soared by 31.1 percent, customs data showed on Thursday, with exports up 14.8 percent for the first quarter from a year ago. China reported a trade surplus of CNY454.94 billion in the period.

Meanwhile, China's trade surplus with the United States rose to $17.74 billion in March from $10.42 billion in February, customs data showed.

China's economic data in January and February can be highly skewed by the timing of the long Lunar New Year holidays, when offices and factories shut for a week or more.

The customs data also showed China's trade surplus with the United States in the first quarter was $49.6 billion, compared with $50.57 billion surplus a year ago.

President Donald Trump has focused on China's large surplus with the United States, which was $347 billion last year, and pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting last week to help reduce the gap.

The U.S. and China agreed at the meeting to a 100-day plan for trade talks aimed at boosting U.S. exports and reducing China's trade surplus with the United States.

—Reuters contributed to this report.