BEIJING-China's exports rose strongly in January from a year earlier, in a possible sign of recovery in external demand for goods from the world's second-largest economy.
The strong figures come as the country tries to position itself as a leader of the global trade regime in anticipation of a U.S. retreat under a protectionist Trump administration.
China's exports in yuan-denominated terms rose 15.9 percent year on year to 1.26 trillion yuan (US$183 billion) last month, faster than the 0.6 percent gain in December. Imports increased 16.7 percent, leaving a trade surplus of $51.35 billion.
The preliminary figures mark a reversal of December's downward trend when the GAC reported that exports had fallen 6.1 per cent.
Manufacturing activity and fuel demand typically slows ahead of the Lunar New Year as production of raw materials eases. Exports had been forecast to grow 3.1% according to a median estimate of 11 economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. The U.S.is China's largest export market, accounting for 18.5 percent of its total exports.
Last year, Chinese imports decreased by 5.5 percent, while exports went down 7.7 percent.
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"The growing imports were also attributed to this year's Spring Festival, which arrived earlier than last year", said Xu Yang, an analyst at Sinolink Securities.
China's foreign trade figures were up in the first month of 2017, with total volume growing almost 20 percent since a year ago to US$482.2 billion.
The United States is close to slapping duties on imports of stainless steel from China after having issued a final determination this month that the products were being subsidized and dumped in the USA market at below fair value.
"We believe China's exports are benefiting from the depreciation of the RMB's real effective exchange rate [REER] over previous quarters".
China's crude imports are expected to soften in the first half of 2017, BMI research said.