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Doubts over demand as trade exceeds expectations

By Wang Yanlin (Shanghai Daily)

09:03, May 09, 2013

China's trade growth again exceeded expectations in April following strong performance in the past two quarters, with some economists attributing the surge to unchecked capital inflows instead of real demand.

Exports expanded 14.7 percent from a year earlier to US$187.1 billion last month, the General Administration of Customs said, picking up from March's 10 percent increase.

Imports jumped 16.8 percent to US$168.9 billion, also stronger than March's 14.1 percent gain.

They created a trade surplus of US$18.2 billion in April, compared to a deficit of US$884 million a month earlier which was the first in more than a year.

However, the figures didn't seem to please market observers, with some wary of figures showing improving demand at both home and abroad.

"China's trade data defies the weak trade data reported in other regional economies," said Zhou Hao, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. "It suggests capital inflow imbedded in trade remains unchecked."

Yao Wei, an economist at Societe Generale, said: "China's trade growth accelerated beyond expectations. However, we continue to notice glaring discrepancies between China and its trade partners' data, and so again suggest caution in interpreting the report."

Chang Jian, a Barclays economist, said empirical irregularities, by domestic corporates, banks and exporters, had been increasingly disclosed since inflated export growth was first suspected in January and February.

"These actions are likely designed to take advantage of such things as cross-border interest rate differentials, an appreciating yuan against the United States dollar and export rebates," Chang said.

Zheng Yuesheng, a Customs spokesman, said last month that the difference was the result of different calculating methods and standards.

In the first four months, China's exports grew 17.4 percent and imports rose 10.6 percent, giving a trade surplus of US$60.9 billion.

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