China exports cushioned by weaker yuan | Fin24
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China exports cushioned by weaker yuan

Sep 08 2016 12:03

Beijing - China’s exporters were cushioned by a weaker yuan last month, while imports rose for the first time since 2014 as property and infrastructure continued to help prop up growth and stronger demand signalled that the expansion may continue to stabilize.

Key points

Overseas shipments slipped 2.8% in US dollars in August from a year earlier, but increased 5.9% in yuan terms - the sixth straight rise as a weaker currency boosts receipts. Imports rose 1.5% in dollar terms - the first increase since late 2014 - and climbed 10.8% in yuan terms.

The trade surplus was $52.05bn, narrower than economists’ forecasts for $58.85bn in a Bloomberg survey.

Big picture

Even as it confronts rising wages, a shrinking workforce and intensifying competition from lower-cost nations, China is still eating up a larger chunk of a shrinking international trade market, while a weaker yuan is helping boost receipts. But with global demand remaining tepid, there are still few signs of a trade-led acceleration, leaving policy makers on guard and the economy increasingly reliant on services and consumption.

Economist takeaways

"Strong property sales and a major push by Beijing to keep expanding infrastructure construction have increased demand for industrial goods and upstream commodities," said Victor Shih, a professor at the University of California at San Diego who studies China’s politics and finance. "China’s economy is increasingly a wagon pulled by the two horses of property and infrastructure."

"It may look better at the surface, but China’s trade engine is still sputtering," said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC Holdings in Hong Kong.

"Exports in dollar terms continued to contract in August, highlighting the broader global trade malaise. Even the new iPhone, a big boost to Asian electronics shipments in the past, has done little to lift Chinese exports."

"It’s not getting much worse," Zhu Haibin, chief China economist at JPMorgan Chase & Company in Hong Kong, said of trade in a Bloomberg Television interview.

"The structural issues from global trade weakness will continue to face China and other countries."

"Improvement in exports and imports points to stronger external and domestic demand" and add to expectations that growth may further stabilize, Fielding Chen, an economist at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong, wrote in a report.

"Exchange rate changes have an impact with a lag and thus it isn’t a surprise that a weaker renminbi is starting to translate into somewhat better exports," said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and a former US Treasury official.

The details

Exports were little changed to the US, Japan and the European Union while those to Russia climbed. Imports from the US slipped, while they increased 13.2% from Japan and 12.7% from the European Union.

Crude oil imports rose to 32.85 million tonnes, or about 7.77 million barrels a day, the fastest pace since April.

Coal imports jumped to 26.6 million tonnes, the most since December 2014.

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