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China's November trade hit by unexpected slump

By Wang Yanlin (Shanghai Daily)

08:34, December 11, 2012

CHINA'S trade took a surprising nosedive in November from the strong rebound of the previous two months, but some analysts said it was still within a process of stabilization.

Exports grew 2.9 percent from a year earlier to US$179.4 billion last month, compared to the 11.6 percent surge in October, the General Administration of Customs said yesterday.

Imports settled at US$159.8 billion with no growth from a year ago, compared with October's 2.4 percent increase.

That meant a trade surplus of US$19.6 billion in November, down from October's US$32 billion and September's US$27.6 billion.

"November's trade data came in much lower than expected, inconsistent with the strong economic figures released on Sunday but in line with throughput data in major Chinese ports," said Zhou Hao, an analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

"It confirms our view that a strong currency is not in the interest of China, as the economic recovery is yet broadening led by a strong pickup in investment only and exports continue to face strong headwinds in an uncertain 2013," Zhou said.

Qu Hongbin, chief economist for China at HSBC Holdings Plc, said: "Sluggish external demand remains the biggest drag on China's growth recovery. Nonetheless, a steady domestic demand recovery, underpinned by investment and consumption, should sustain China's economy gradual rebound to around 8 percent in the fourth quarter."

But Xue Jun, an analyst at CITIC Securities Co, said the setback had been expected and was tolerable as the peak time for delivering Christmas orders had finished.

"The moderating pace in November, though a bit sharp, does not mean the end of stabilization in China's trade," Xue said. He expected that overseas shipments may strengthen gradually in the near future with recovering demand in Europe and the United States, and imports may also pick up again in response to people's growing confidence in the domestic economy.

Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, said there remained many uncertainties in China's trade, but the overall situation had improved dramatically from that in the first half of the year.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, has carried out a slew of policies, including more timely payment of export tax rebates, more credit insurance, a reduction in fees and better Customs services to bolster trade.

Analysts believe these measures may help sustain trade growth in the near term.

In the first 11 months, China's trade added 5.8 percent year on year to US$3.5 trillion, making the country unlikely to realize its 10 percent growth target for the whole year.

Trade with the European Union fell 4.1 percent on an annual basis in the first 11 months. But the EU remained China's largest trading partner with a trade volume of US$495.7 billion.

Shipments with the US jumped 8.2 percent during the period to US$438.6 billion, Customs data showed.

Shanghai's trade rose 0.2 percent to US$399.7 billion in the first 11 months, placing the city third in trade value after the southern Guangdong Province and neighboring Jiangsu Province.

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