China’s exports unexpectedly fell in September
from year earlier, pointing to fragile global demand and questions about the
recording of Hong Kong trade. Meanwhile, China's consumer price index (CPI) rose 3.1% year
on year in September, up from 2.6% in August, the National Bureau of Statistics
(NBS) said on Monday.
Exports fell unexpectedly 0.3% in September from
a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, ending two consecutive months
of rises. Imports, however, rose 7.4% last month from a year ago, accelerating
from August's 7% rise, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said.
The trade surplus was US$15.2bn in September,
compared with $28.52bn in August and 44.7% less than the same month last year.
Taking into account exchange rate fluctuations,
the country's foreign trade volume rose 3.3% in September, down from August's
7.1% increase and July's 7.8% rise, said Zheng Yuesheng, a GAC spokesman,
according to a report by Xinhua, the official news agency.
Despite the fall in September, Zheng expected the country's exports to maintain
a stable development during the next two or three months, based on a survey of
2,000 export enterprises.
"China's dependence on external demand weakened," Zheng said, which showed
the country's economic development was transforming from being driven by
external demand to domestic demand.
“It’s all quite murky,” Bloomberg quotes Shen
Jianguang, Hong Kong-based chief Asia economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd.,
citing the impact of inflated export data that started late last year, fewer
working days due to the timing of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday and currency
volatility in Southeast Asia. “There has been an export recovery since July to
the US and Europe but it’s been pretty weak,” Shen said. “The driving force for
China’s recovery at this stage is still housing and infrastructure investment.”
In the first nine months of the year, exports and
imports gained 7.7% from a year earlier, with the trade surplus growing 14.4%
year on year to $169.4bn.
Trade with the European Union, the
nation's largest trade partner, dipped 0.8% year on year during the
January-September period, compared with a 3.1% decrease registered in the first
half of 2013.
Trade with the United States, China's
second-largest trade partner, rose 6.7% in the first nine months, while that
with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members increased
Zheng said there were signs of recovery for
Sino-Japanese foreign trade in the second half of the year, with the rate of
decrease in bilateral trade easing for three straight months since July.
The country's exports to Japan edged up
1.5% year on year last month, reversing a declining trend starting from July
2012, he said.
Although September's trade data seemed to suggest
a sign of weakening exports, many economists were upbeat.
China's growth slowed to 7.5% in the second
quarter. It is scheduled to release third-quarter growth data this Friday.
"We expect the recovery will last until the end of the year but is likely to
slow down moderately again in 2014," JP Morgan China economist Zhu Haibin said.
Xinhua reports that in the first nine months, year-on-year CPI growth stood at 2.5% on
average, well below the government's full-year target of 3.5%.
Yu Qiumei, a senior statistician with the bureau, attributed the rise in
September mainly to a rebound in food prices due to the holiday effect, as well
as droughts and floods in some regions. Food prices account for about one-third
of the CPI calculation.
Last month, food prices rose 6.1% year on year, while prices of
non-food products, including clothing, home appliances and daily necessities,
moved up 1.6%, according to the NBS.
"Floods in the north, high temperature in the south, as well as typhoons have
affected the supply of vegetables and fruits," said Niu Li, an expert with the
State Information Center (SIC).
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