BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s exports likely surged to a three-year high and imports also jumped in the first two months of the year, thanks to a low base, as economic activity ground to a halt last year due to draconian COVID-19 control measures, a Reuters poll showed.
Exports are expected to have risen 38.9% in January-February from a year earlier, according to a median forecast in a Reuters poll of 22 economists, up from 18.1% gain in December.
China’s customs began combining January and February data last year to smooth distortions caused by the Lunar New Year, which can fall in either month.
Separately, the head of China state planner said on Friday that China’s exports are estimated to have grown over 50% in the first two months, without specifying whether that was in yuan or dollar terms.
The strong forecasts contrast with official and private manufacturing surveys that have indicated a weakening in external demand for Chinese products.
“China’s exports are facing both positive and negative impacts currently,” analysts with China Minsheng Bank said in a note.
“The exports volume of medical supplies and transferred orders from other countries due to coronavirus-related disruptions to production will decrease, with more countries speeding up work resumption with the rollout of vaccines.”
The bank’s analysts also expected a rebound of overseas demand for Chinese goods with the reopening of global economy.
Chinese factory activity normally goes dormant during the Lunar New Year break as workers return to their home towns. This year, the government appealed to workers to avoid travelling to curb the spread of COVID-19, prompting some economists to forecast a marginal boost to production especially in the country’s coastal export-dominant provinces.
Imports likely rose 15% in the first two months versus a year ago, the poll showed, with some analysts expecting the number to have been lifted by high commodity prices.
China’s trade surplus is expected to have narrowed to $60 billion in the same period from $78.17 billion in December, according to the poll. The data will be released on Sunday.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)