Tech, iron ore help drive surprise Chinese import jump

China’s imports surged in September, defying expectations, official data showed Tuesday, while exports rose for a fourth straight month as shops further opened up after virus lockdowns.

Shipments into the world’s second-largest economy spiked 13.2 percent last month, smashing forecasts of a 0.4 percent increase as companies and consumers dipped into their pockets following months of coronavirus uncertainty and geopolitical tensions.

Corporate buying of tech products before US restrictions hit was likely a key driver behind the “extremely strong imports”, said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp.

Customs data released Tuesday showed the first import bounce since June, also supported by agricultural products.

Meanwhile, imports of iron ore and electronic integrated circuits hit record high values as infrastructure investments show strength and companies stock up, Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank, told AFP.

“Imports of agricultural and industrial commodities picked up, with the latter pointing toward continued strength in infrastructure and property investment,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist of Capital Economics.

Exports rose 9.9 percent on-year, the Customs Administration said, initially spurred by worldwide demand for Made-In-China personal protective equipment such as face masks and gowns but now widening to household appliances and plastics.

Customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters that foreign trade has been “better than expected”, although the spread of Covid-19 and the ensuing economic carnage makes the global landscape “increasingly grim and complicated”.

Fresh waves of infections in key markets — including the US and Europe — could batter external demand again.

China’s trade surplus with the US — the core gripe in Washington in their bruising trade war — rose 18.8 percent to $30.75 billion, that was down from the $34.2 billion seen in August.

Imports of agricultural commodities picked up, with meat shipments rising 82.6 percent on-year over the first nine months, while grains and soybeans also saw increases, according to official data.

“In the near-term, infrastructure-led stimulus looks set to continue alongside a gradual recovery in oil prices, which is likely to keep imports strong,” Evans-Pritchard said. “Meanwhile, exports should continue to benefit from the recovery in global demand.”

Financial intelligence firm Moody’s Analytics cautioned this week that the recovery in overseas demand “has been uneven and aided by the notable increase in demand for medical, electrical and high-tech products”. | Agence France-Presse

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