China's exports declined unexpectedly in April after recovering a month ago, while foreign reserves increased for the second straight month on the softening dollar.
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Exports declined 1.8 percent annually following a 11.5 percent increase in March, the General Administration of Customs reported over the weekend. Exports were expected to remain flat in April.
Imports dropped 10.9 percent versus March's 7.6 percent decrease. The annual fall was bigger than the 4 percent drop expected by economists.
As a result, the trade surplus totaled $46 billion in April, exceeding the $40 billion surplus expected by economists.
Trade growth was always likely to slow sharply in April after the seasonal surge in March, Evans-Pritchard at Capital Economics, said. The data is still consistent with the assessment that the economy is in the early stages of a cyclical recovery.
In yuan denominated terms, exports climbed 4.1 percent, while imports slid 5.7 percent. Economists had forecast a 4.3 percent rise in exports and a 0.3 percent increase in imports.
Consequently, the trade surplus totaled CNY 298 billion compared to the expected level of CNY 254.9 billion.
During the January to April period, exports decreased 2.1 percent from last year. By contrast, imports fell 7.5 percent.
Chinese soybean imports surged 33 percent higher in April from a year ago, setting a monthly record, amid strong demand for soymeal and soyoil.
Iron ore imports also climbed last month on a recovery in steel production in the second quarter.
China imported 7.07 million tonnes of soybeans in April, up 15.9 percent compared to the previous month, preliminary figures issued by the General Administration of Customs showed on Sunday. This is a record for April imports.
March imports were also a monthly record and soybean imports have surged in 2016 on rising demand for soymeal for hog farms in China. For the first four months of the year, imports have climbed 11.4 percent from a year ago to 23.33 million tonnes.
Improving margins for steel production starting this quarter pushed iron ore imports higher, with deliveries rising 4.6 percent from a year ago to 83.92 million tonnes in April, a monthly record, customs said. However, that was down 2.2 percent from March imports.
Iron ore shipments from Port Hedland in Australia, China’s biggest supplier, slipped 0.9 percent on the month to 32.6 million tonnes in April, official data showed.
Chinese coal imports slipped last month, dropping 5.8 percent from a year ago to 18.8 million tonnes. Expectations had been for an increase as power plants sought to replenish stockpiles with cheaper foreign supplies ahead of the summer peak power consumption period.
The total volume over the first four months reached 67.25 million tonnes, down 2.5 percent compared to the same period of 2015. Imports over the whole of 2015 dropped 30 percent.
Copper ore and concentrates imports stood at 1.26 million tonnes, down 8 percent on the month, though they were up 21 percent from a year ago, the customs data showed. ■