That is due to an expected slowing in global growth that would hit Chinese exports, as well as cooling demand at home, Evans-Pritchard wrote in a note Thursday.
In fact, seasonally adjust trade data will show that even though exports and imports both did better than expected in January, they still remained weaker than a few months ago, he added.
"For now, then, the broad trend in shipments still appears to be pointing down," Evans-Pritchard said.
Thursday's data release comes as American and Chinese trade negotiators began a new round of talks in Beijing this week as the world's two largest economies renewed efforts to reach a deal.
Officials from both countries are trying to reach a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, the South China Morning Post reported.
—CNBC's Fred Imbert and Reuters contributed to this report.
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that China on Thursday reported exports and imports data for January that easily topped expectations.