China Feb exports post record surge from Covid-19-depressed 2020 levels

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s February exports grew at a record annual pace from a year earlier when Covid-19 battered the world’s second-biggest economy, customs data showed on Sunday (March 7), while imports rose less sharply.

Exports in dollar terms skyrocketed by 154.9 per cent in February compared with a year earlier, while imports gained 17.3 per cent that month, the most since October 2018. Customs data did not include data for January alone.

In the January-February period, exports jumped 60.6 per cent from a year earlier, when lockdowns to contain the pandemic paralysed the country’s economic activity. That exceeded the forecast of analysts in a Reuters poll for a 38.9 per cent surge.

Strong exports, which benefited from China’s success in largely containing the public health crisis, have helped fuel the country’s recovery from a pandemic-induced paralysis.

The surge was driven by a rebound in foreign demand, customs said in a statement on its website, citing improvements in manufacturing industries in the European Union and the United States, and their increased imports of Chinese products thanks to fiscal stimulus measures.

“In addition, a majority of manufacturing employees (in China) chose to stay put over the Lunar New Year holidays,” the statement said. “Our survey showed a lot of firms in export-oriented provinces stayed open, and orders that usually only get delivered after the new year had been delivered normally.”

Chinese factory activity usually goes dormant during the Lunar New Year break, which fell in the middle of February this year, as workers return to their hometowns. This year, the government appealed to workers to avoid travelling to curb the risk of a spread of the coronavirus.

In January-February, imports increased 22.2 per cent from a year earlier, above the 15 per cent forecast, partly due to stockpiling of semiconductors and energy products, according to customs.

China posted a trade surplus of US$103.25 billion (S$138.5 billion) for the first two months. Analysts had expected the trade surplus to narrow to US$60.15 billion from US$78.17 billion in December.

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