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China September exports up 8.1%, imports up 18.7% as trade with North Korea slides

  • In September, China's exports were up 8.1 percent from a year ago in dollar terms, while imports were up 18.7 percent
  • Analysts polled by Reuters expected a 8.8 percent rise in dollar-denominated exports and a jump of only 13.5 percent for dollar-termed imports in the same period
Workers operate machinery on the assembly line at a Lyric Robert factory, operated by Guangdong Li Yuanheng Intelligent Automation Co., in Huizhou, Guangdong province, China, on Monday, April 18, 2016.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers operate machinery on the assembly line at a Lyric Robert factory, operated by Guangdong Li Yuanheng Intelligent Automation Co., in Huizhou, Guangdong province, China, on Monday, April 18, 2016.

China reported strong trade data on Friday just days ahead of a major Communist Party Congress.

In September, China's exports were up 8.1 percent from a year ago in dollar terms, while imports were up 18.7 percent.

Analysts polled by Reuters expected an 8.8 percent rise in Chinese exports in September from a year ago in dollar terms. Dollar-denominated imports were forecast to jump 13.5 percent in the same period.

September's figures were an improvement from August when exports were up 5.5 percent from a year ago in dollar terms, while imports were up 13.3 percent in dollar terms.

Even though September exports missed the analyst forecast, they were still robust as a strengthening Chinese yuan would have an impact on the data, said Chi Lo, senior economist for Greater China at BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

"But it seems the global demand is still there to support the demand for Chinese exports," said Chi, who described Friday's trade data release as "pretty good."

China's September trade surplus was $28.47 billion — the lowest since March 2017.

China's August trade balance was $41.99 billion, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

China's economic data have been showing robust growth ahead of leadership changes set to happen at the upcoming Party Congress.

Huang Songping, spokesman for the Customs department told a press conference on Friday that trade for the first three quarters improved due to a recovery in overall global and domestic economic environment. There has been a return in global demand, he added.

Barring unforeseen events, China's will post double-digit growth in foreign trade this year, said Huang.

Many expect the mainland's economy to slow in the later part of the year due to a crackdown on debt and as the property market cools.

Huang also highlighted uncertainties, including politics, in the fourth quarter.

BNP Paribas' Chi told CNBC that the "Trump factor is a pretty big one," particularly as China's trade surplus with the U.S. remains elevated while its trade surplus with the rest of the world declines.

On Friday, China reported a record trade surplus with the U.S. at $28.08 billion in September, according to Reuters calculations.

"I am expecting trade frictions between the U.S. and China to hurt some Chinese exports," Chi said.

The yuan would also weigh on shipments out of the country if its strength is sustained, Chi added.

Trade with North Korea

Chinese Customs also highlighted a slide in trade with North Korea at its Friday press conference.

According to Huang, imports from North Korea tanked 37.9 percent in September from a year ago, marking its seventh month of decline. Imports of coal, iron ore, and apparel fell, while there was no record of seafood imports, he added.

Chinese exports to North Korea fell 6.7 percent in September.

Chinese trade with North Korea has been under the microscope amid multiple missile and nuclear tests from the reclusive regime that have escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula.