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China’s trade jumped in March, a sign that the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is well on track as vaccine rollouts around the world pick up pace.
Exports climbed 30.6% in dollar terms in March from a year earlier, customs data showed Tuesday, albeit lower than the 38% median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Imports jumped 38.1%, beating expectations and leaving a trade surplus of $13.8 billion for the month.
China has benefited from soaring global demand for medical goods and work-from-home equipment during the pandemic. The latest data shows export momentum remained strong after record gains in February, a sign that the global rebound is helping spur demand in the world’s second-largest economy.
The World Trade Organization last month raised its forecast for global trade growth to 8% this year, which would be the fastest pace since 2010.
“Export outperformance remains a theme in China’s recovery,” Peiqian Liu, an economist at Natwest Markets, said in an interview on Bloomberg TV, adding that it was due to “a combination of global recovering demand as well as China’s role in filling up the global supply chain gaps.”
The trade figures are also partly distorted because of last year’s low base, when the pandemic shut down much of the economy. Premier Li Keqiang told experts and enterprises on the weekend to look beyond the ‘base effect’ and use other data and methods to assess the economic situation.
The surge in imports reflects strong domestic activity and rising commodity prices, further signs of China’s solid recovery from last year’s pandemic. Data due Friday will probably show the economy expanded a record 18.5% in the first quarter from a year ago.
Analysts are watching closely to see if China can sustain its export growth as demand for pandemic-related goods ease and production elsewhere picks up. Economists at Societe Generale SA also point out that in the second half of the year, consumers may switch to spending on services instead of goods, a shift that could weigh on China’s exports.
What Bloomberg Economics Says…
“China’s strong export growth in March shows demand from overseas continues to support the economy. Details, though, reveal emerging weakness in what’s been a mainstay during the Covid crisis — exports of stay-at-home related products.”
David Qu, China economist
For the full report, click here.
- Exports to the U.S. surged 53.3% in March from a year earlier, resulting in a trade surplus of $21.37 billion.
- For a breakdown of imports by country, click here.
— With assistance by James Mayger, Lin Zhu, Yinan Zhao, and Yujing Liu
(Updates with comments from economists.)