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China says exports rose 3.5% in April, crushing expectations for a decline of 15.7%

China’s dollar-denominated exports unexpectedly rose in April, but imports fell the same month as movement restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak eased. According to data from the General Administration of Customs released on Thursday, exports rose 3.5% from a year ago while imports fell 14.2% in the same period.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to have fallen 15.7% in April from a year earlier while imports were expected to have fallen 11.2% from a year earlier. In March, China’s exports fell 6.6% from a year ago, while imports slipped 0.9% in the same month.

China’s trade surplus for the month of April was $45.34 billion — compared to the $6.35 billion economists polled by Reuters had predicted. China reported trade surplus of $19.9 billion for the month of March. China’s trade surplus in April was the largest since December last year when the surplus was about $47 billion.

Nomura economists noted a surge in the exports of antivirus medical supplies with the export value of such items jumping from about 1 billion Chinese yuan ($141 million) in April 1 to April 10, to more than 3 billion Chinese yuan ($423 million) in late April, they wrote in an analysis of the customs data on Thursday.

The exports of such medical supplies — that includes 27.8 billion face masks and 130 million protective suits — could have boosted headline export growth in March and April by as much as 2.7 percentage points from a year ago.

Factories were also likely fulfilling a backlog of orders as Chinese workers gradually headed back to work after an extended lockdown from late January. Spending on services would also be lower than a year ago. “People may feel probably a bit worried or nervous about going to malls, to dine there, or to stroll around, or to send their kids to their English extra curricular education center etc.,” said Qiao.

There are also concerns over China’s current political standoff with the U.S. over the coronavirus pandemic, with President Donald Trump threatening additional tariffs on China in retaliation for the outbreak.

China says exports rose 3.5% in April, crushing expectations for a decline of 15.7%, CNBC, May 7

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