China's foreign trade surplus widened to 元3.69tn yuan/ renminbi ($562bn) in 2015, an increase of 56.7% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday.

 

Xinhua, the official news agency, reported that exports fell 1.8% year on year to 元14.14tn yuan in 2015, while imports declined 13.2% (partly reflecting dips in commodity prices) to 元10.45tn yuan in 2015, according to the General Administration of Customs data. Last year, the country's total export and import values decreased 7% year on year to 元24.59tn yuan.

China's exports rose 2.3% in December from a year earlier in yuan terms, after a fall of 3.7% in November. The rise in exports was the first since last June. Imports in December fell 4.0% in yuan terms from a year earlier, compared with a 5.6% decrease in November.

In US dollar terms both imports and exports fell in December, but the fall was smaller than November’s. Exports dipped 1.4% from a year earlier to $224.1bn, an improvement over the previous month’s 6.8% contraction. Imports were down 7.6% at $164bn a smaller decline than November’s 8.7% fall.

The country's trade surplus widened in December to 元382.05bn yuan ($58.1bn) from 元343.1bn yuan in November.

"This could be the beginning of an improvement in China’s trade data," said Ding Shuang, chief China economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Hong Kong. "When the exchange rate starts to move it usually takes about three to six months for trade data to respond. Last August was the beginning, so it makes sense for the trade data to respond after three to four months. "

In morning trading Wednesday, Shanghai shares stocks — which had tumbled almost 15% in 2016 — rose 0.7% and Hong Kong gained 2.3%.

Bloomberg News reported that China's overall global trade shrunk last year, and in that context China’s export performance was relatively strong.

“China actually outperformed the rest of the world in exports, with its share in global exports rising,” Bloomberg cited  Larry Hu, head of China Economics at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong, as saying in a report ahead of the data.