BEIJING -- Fueling the country's biggest trade surplus in nearly five years, China’s exports grew far more strongly than expected in November while import growth weakened, official figures showed Sunday.
Exports increased 12.7% year-on-year to $202.2 billion, the General Administration of Customs said -- compared with a forecast of 7% in a poll of 11 economists by the Wall Street Journal.
Imports were up 5.3% year-on-year to $168.4 billion, with the monthly trade surplus expanding to $33.8 billion from $31.1 billion in October -- the biggest since January 2009.
The November surplus was also considerably larger than the median forecast of $21.7 billion by the 11 economists.
The surprisingly strong exports data came after overseas shipments expanded 5.6% in October following a decline of 0.3% in September.
Exports to the United States rose 17.7% in November year-on-year, while shipments to the 28-member European Union gained 18.4%.
The growth in imports, however, came in at less than the forecast increase of seven percent and was also below October's 7.6% growth.
"Imports were disappointing," said HSBC economist Ma Xiaoping. "Domestic demand is still tepid."
The latest trade data came after China's economy snapped out of a first-half slump, with gross domestic product growth in the third quarter accelerating to 7.8% year-on-year after it slowed during the first two quarters.
Earlier this month official figures showed that China's manufacturing growth in November maintained a strong pace from the previous month to stay at a 19-month high. The purchasing managers' index was at 51.4, unchanged from October, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
In the first 11 months of the year, China's total trade, combining exports and imports, reached $3.8 trillion, up 7.7% from the same period last year, Customs said. The government's target for 2013 is 8%.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013