http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/business/global/11yuan.html?hpwHealthy Jump in Chinese Exports Points to Recovery in World Trade
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: February 10, 2010
HONG KONG — China said Wednesday that its exports climbed 21 percent in January from a year earlier, while imports surged 85.5 percent, the latest sign that world trade is starting to recover from the global financial crisis.
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China exports increased somewhat less than expected: The consensus of economists had been that exports increased 28 percent. But the healthy jump last month could still fuel further calls from the United States and the European Union for China to break the peg of its currency, the renminbi, to the U.S. dollar and allow the renminbi to appreciate.
China’s exports have recovered more rapidly than those of most countries, partly because the low value of the renminbi has kept Chinese goods relatively inexpensive in foreign markets.
The rebound in Chinese exports has been so rapid that some factory executives in the Pearl River delta region near Hong Kong have begun complaining of shortages of empty steel containers in which to ship their goods. Container shipping companies have begun to raise freight rates and remove discounts introduced in response to the financial crisis.
“With the export recovery taking hold more strongly, the outlook for export manufacturing, ports and container shipping sectors appears to be brighter, compared to last year,” Jing Ulrich, the chairman of China equities and commodities at J.P. Morgan, said in a research note.
Imports in January rose impressively, in line with economists’ expectations, because imports a year ago were so weak. Many Chinese export factories nearly stopped buying raw materials then as their orders dried up, but they have been restocking since late spring.
Exports and imports both benefited this year from the timing of Chinese New Year, which will be Sunday. It fell on Jan. 26 last year, and a weeklong holiday at the end of January last year helped curtail economic activity in China.
The China trade surplus was $14.17 billion last month, compared with $18.43 billion in December and $39.1 billion in January of last year, according to figures released Wednesday by China’s General Administration of Customs.
The trade statistics are the latest sign of China’s robust economic health, even as most of the rest of the world struggles to recover from the financial crisis.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers announced Tuesday that auto sales in China had surged 143 percent from the level of a year earlier and production had leaped 124 percent.
A few analysts had expressed fears that auto sales might be weak in January because the government had partially rescinded a sales tax cut for cars with engines of 1.6 liters or less. Having cut the tax to 5 percent a year ago, from 10 percent, the government raised it to 7.5 percent at the start of this year.
But car ownership remains extremely popular in China, where personal incomes are rising and consumer confidence is strong. Car dealerships in China have weeks-long waiting lists for many models, and months-long waiting lists for some of the most popular models.
The A-share index on the Shanghai stock exchange closed 1.1 percent higher Wednesday, after getting an early boost from the auto sales figures, which had been released after the close of trading on Tuesday.
China’s snapshot of its January trade data Wednesday came the morning after Germany released official data confirming that it had lost its status as the world’s leading exporter, as China overtook it.
Chinese exports amounted to $1.2 trillion in 2009, while German exports totaled $1.1 trillion, the German Federal Statistical Office said.
Aside from China’s sheer size, it was the global economic downturn that propelled China past Germany as the top exporter. Germany’s main trading partners, the United States and the European Union, cut back on investments, while consumers trimmed their spending and banks reined in lending.
Judy Dempsey contributed reporting from Berlin.
Sign in to Recommend More Articles in Business » A version of this article appeared in print on February 11, 2010, in The International Herald Tribune.