China's Feb exports surge 44.5 pct, beat forecasts, imports up 6.3 pct

BEIJING, March 8 (Reuters) - China's February exports rose 44.5 percent from a year earlier, beating market expectations, while imports grew 6.3 percent, customs data showed on Thursday.

That left the country with a trade surplus of $33.74 billion for the month.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected February shipments from the world's largest exporter to have risen 13.6 percent, quickening from a 11.1 percent increase in the previous month.

Import growth had been expected to slump to 9.7 percent, after a sharp rebound to 36.9 percent in January. The trade surplus had been tipped at $0.6 billion last month from January's $20.35 billion.

Analysts cautioned, however, that Chinese data is often highly volatile early in the year, due to massive business disruptions caused by the long Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in mid-February this year but late January last year.

Still, over the Jan-Feb period combined, exports rose 24.4 percent, and imports rose 21.7 percent.

China's trade performance rebounded in 2017 and logged a strong start this year thanks to robust demand at home and abroad. But rapidly escalating trade tensions with the United States are clouding the outlook for exports, while a cooling property market may curb domestic demand for imported raw materials such as iron ore. (Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Kim Coghill)