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China Exports Surge Ahead of Trade Friction Risk from Trump

China said exports to the U.S. rose 9% from a year ago in dollar terms.

China’s overseas shipments rebounded on stronger global demand, putting the nation’s external sector on a firmer footing as it braces for potential trade frictions with the U.S. under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Exports rose 7.9% in January from a year earlier in dollar terms, the customs administration said Friday. Imports increased 16.7%, leaving a trade surplus of $51.35 billion. In December, exports declined 6.2% in dollar terms after revision, but they edged up 0.6% in local-currency terms.

China said exports to the U.S. rose 9% from a year ago in dollar terms, which could exacerbate concerns by the Trump administration about bilateral trade.

"It is related to the global pick-up in growth in the U.S., Europe and also emerging economies," said Shen Jianguang, chief Asia economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. "Imports are strong, which is understandable, as Chinese government stimulus has boosted domestic demand. The exports outlook for China is good, except for the potential risk of a Sino-US trade war."

China’s improving picture for exports after subdued data the prior month follow a better-than-expected economic growth pace of 6.8% in the fourth quarter, the first acceleration in two years. January data also benefited from a more favorable comparison to a year earlier, when shipments slumped 10.9% in yuan terms.

The world’s largest exporter faces more challenges and uncertainties this year as Trump -- who has accused China of unfair trade practices -- assembles a cabinet that includes critics of the Asian nation. While some pre-existing trade disputes continue to percolate, the new administration hasn’t unveiled any major new initiatives in its first weeks.

"The earlier arrival of Lunar New Year this year by almost a week seems to have encouraged more activity concentrating in January," said  Raymond Yeung, chief greater China economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.

By Bloomberg News

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