CHINA’S trade surplus surged to a record US$49.8 billion (RM158 billion) in August, official data showed yesterday, as imports surprisingly fell for a second straight month while export growth slowed.
Imports fell 2.4 per cent year-on-year to US$158.6 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced, while exports increased 9.4 per cent to US$208.5 billion.
Imports, which had declined 1.6 per cent in July, worsened further in August and failed to match the median forecast of a 2.7 per cent increase in a Wall Street Journal survey.
Export growth slowed from July’s gain of 14.5 per cent, but beat the median expectation of a 9.2 per cent gain.
The surplus, meanwhile, exceeded the previous all-time high of US$47.3 billion recorded last month. It also exceeded the median forecast of US$42 billion.
The results came on the heels of data showing softness in China’s economy during the current third quarter, leading economists to stress that authorities will likely take further steps to boost growth.
Growth in manufacturing activity slowed last month, two closely watched surveys showed last week. In July, China’s bank lending plunged and growth in key indicators such as industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment slowed from the previous month.
Analysts said China’s growth outlook is being weighed down by trouble in the country’s huge property sector — where new home prices posted their fourth consecutive month-on-month decline last month — and the waning effect of stimulus measures taken earlier this year to juice growth.
“We expect the government to continue to roll out small, targeted easing measures to offset the ongoing property market correction,” Nomura economists said in a note.
China’s economy expanded a stronger-than-expected annualised 7.5 per cent in the April-June quarter, picking up from 7.4 per cent during January-April, which had been the worst since a similar expansion in July-September 2012.
The weak performance in the first quarter this year prompted authorities from April to begin introducing measures to boost economic growth through steps such as tax breaks for small enterprises, targeted infrastructure spending and lending incentives in rural areas and for small companies.
China’s property woes can be seen reflected in the past two months of weak imports, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics. AFP