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Business

China exports rebound on weaker yuan

In November, Chinese exports snapped a seven-month losing streak, beating analysts' expectations. Imports also rose in a sign that global and domestic demand are recovering. But analysts warn that clouds are emerging.

China's exports in November rose for the first time in nine months, climbing 0.1 percent 0.1 percent year-on-year to $152.2 billion (140.9 billion euros), according to government data released on Thursday.

Imports rose a staggering 6.7 percent year-on-year to $152.2 billion in November, the data showed, far stronger than analysts expectations of a 1.9 percent fall.

The readings were a massive improvement on the previous month, when exports dived 7.3 percent and imports fell 1.4 percent.

Analysts attributed the rises in November to a stabilization of the world's second largest economy in the wake of aggressive monetary policy easing by China's central bank. In addition, the country benefited from recent improvements in the global economy.

"The improvement reflects a strengthening in global demand, with recent business surveys suggesting that developed economies are on track to end the year on a strong note," Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Singapore-based Capital Economics, said in a note.

China is the world's biggest trader in goods, and its performance affects partners from Australia to Zambia, which have been battered as its expansion has slowed to levels not seen in a quarter of a century.

Construction boom

In November, however, imports of major commodities including iron ore, crude oil, coal, soybeans and copper all surged, despite a sharp weakening in China's yuan currency. The data showed that imports rose in both value and volume terms. A government infrastructure building spree and housing rally have fueled a construction boom in this year, spurring demand for building materials from steel bars to cement. 

China imported 91.98 million tones of iron ore in November, the third highest monthly tally on record, while imports of copper surged 31 percent. The country also imported its largest volume of coal in 18 months, as utilities rebuilt stocks to cope with higher winter  demand.

Outlook uncertain

Still, despite the latest gains, exports for the first 11 months of 2016 are down 7.5 percent from a year ago, and Capital Economics analyst Evens- Pritchard said China's medium-term outlook remained challenging.

"While global demand has recovered somewhat recently, lower trend growth in many developed and emerging economies means that further upside is probably limited," he wrote.

Moreover, analysts expect further headwinds as China could be heavily exposed to protectionist measures next year if Trump follows through on campaign pledges to brand it a currency manipulator and impose heavy tariffs on imports of Chinese goods.

Chester Liaw, an economist at Forecast Pte in Singapore said the positive numbers shouldn't be seen as an inflection point. Of all the high frequency economic data over the year, trade headwinds are likely to be the most severe, and the most uncontrollable, due to trade policies of other countries, he told the news agency Reuters.

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uhe/jd (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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