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China Trade Shrinks Ahead Of GDP Number

China’s March quarter GDP growth data is out tomorrow and is expected to again show a solid pace of activity.

Economists reckon GDP will have risen at an annual rate of 6.8% int he three months to March. March monthly and quarterly figures on production, investment and retail sales will also be issued.

Figures out on Friday showed China’s March exports fell 2.7%, against a market forecast for a rise of 10%, and down from the 44.5% jump in February, which economists was heavily distorted by the timing of the Lunar New Year.

China’s March imports jumped 14.4% from the first quarter of 2017, topping market forecasts for 10% growth, and the 6.3% rise in February.

That produced a trade deficit of $US4.98 billion for the month, but such shortfalls are not uncommon for China early in the year, likely due to the impact of when the Lunar New Year falls.

For January-March, imports rose a strong 18.9% year-on-year. Higher prices for many commodities helped push the value higher, but 3.7% rise in the value of the yuan against the US dollar helped reduce the cost. The rise in the value of the yuan also clipped the returns from exports which were still up a solid 14.1% in the quarter.

China’s first-quarter exports to the US rose 14.8% from a year earlier, despite a 5.6% dip in March. Imports from the US rose 8.9% in the quarter and 3.2% in March.

That helped narrow its surplus with the US in March alone to $US15.43 billion from $US20.96 billion in February, but that was still nearly 18% above March 2017.

China’s iron ore imports fell 10.2% on the year in March amid declining prices. The world’s biggest buyer of the steelmaking raw material took in 85.79 million tonnes last month, down from 95.56 million tonnes a year earlier,

The March number was up from imports of 84.3 million tonnes in February, but down from 95.6 million tonnes a year ago, and also from the January and February average of around 92 million tonnes.

Some shipment issues in leading iron ore supplier Brazil may have affected material unloaded in China in March,

In the three months to March, China’ imported 271 million tonnes of ore, down 0.7% from a year earlier because of the weakness in March.

China’s crude oil imports rose to 39.1 million tonnes in March, or 9.2 million barrels per day (bpd), the second highest on record.

For the first quarter, China’s crude imports were up 7% from a year ago at 112 million tonnes, or 9.1 million bpd, the General Administration of Customs said on Friday.

China’s coal imports rose in March from a year ago as utilities boosted their purchases to replenish inventories after colder-than-usual winter weather saw fuel stockpiles run down.

Coal imports last month climbed 21% from a year ago to 26.7 million tonnes, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.

That was up from 20.9 million tonnes in February. For the first quarter, China imported 75.41 million tonnes of coal, up 16.6% from the same period a year earlier. That’s a record annual rate of just over 300 million tonnes.

China’s soybean imports fell 10 percent in March from a year ago, in line with market expectations on easing demand after the Lunar New Year festival.

China’s March imports of 5.66 million tonnes were down from last year’s 6.33 million tonnes, but up slightly from February’s 5.42 million tonnes.

China’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday fell later this year, in mid-February.

Soy imports in the first three months of the year rose 0.2% to 19.57 million tonnes, driven by solid demand from the livestock industry, customs data showed.

China’s copper imports jumped to 436,000 tonnes in March, just above the 443,000 tonnes imported in February.

China’s exports to the U.S. rose 14.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, while imports rose 8.9 percent.

That sent its quarterly trade surplus with the U.S. surging 19.4 percent to $58.25 billion, though the March reading narrowed to $15.43 billion from $20.96 billion in February.

China’s total aluminium exports in March rose to their highest since June, just as the United States imposed tariffs on imports of the metal and steel on March 23.

Imports of commodities continued to lead the way in March, with shipments of copper, crude oil, iron ore and soybeans all rising from the previous month.

China Jan-march crude oil imports at 112 mln tonnes, up 7 pct y/y - customs

  • China March crude oil imports at 39.1 mln tonnes - Rtrs calculation
  • China march crude oil imports second highest on record on daily basis - Rtrs records
  • China Jan-March iron ore imports at 271 mln tonnes, down 0.1 pct y/y - customs
  • China March iron ore imports at 86.3 mln tonnes - rtrs calculation
  • China Jan-March copper imports at 1.23 mln tonnes, up 7.3 pct y/y - customs
  • China March copper imports at 436,000 tonnes - Rtrs calculation
  • China Jan-March soybean imports at 19.57 mln tonnes, up 0.2 pct y/y - customs
  • China March soybean imports at 5.67 mln tonnes - rtrs calculation

View More Articles By Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

At the AFR he was a finance writer, Finance Editor, News Editor and Chief of Staff. At the Nine Network he was supervising producer of Business Sunday for more than 16 years. He has also written for other online and analogue print publications here and overseas.



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