Chinese exports surged 9.7 per cent in December, while imports were down 2.3 per cent from a year earlier. The stronger overseas demand gave the world's second economy a trade surplus of $49.61 billion (£32.9 billion), the customs administration said in Beijing.
"China’s exports will be enough to provide support for overall growth, but won’t be strong enough to spark a rebound," Li Miaoxian, Beijing-based economist at Bocom International Holdings Co., told Bloomberg.
"The better-than-expected performance of imports showed China’s domestic demand isn’t that weak — in fact, it’s quite stable if the distortion from the oil price fall is excluded."
The final numbers for the year mean exports rose 6.1 per cent in 2014 compared with 2013, while imports rose 0.4 per cent, according to official figures quoted by Xinhua news agency.
Stronger demand from the US, Europe and south-east Asia last month helped boost exports, according to the official data. However, Cargo shipments to Japan declined due to a weakening yen.
"Many, including us, had expected the sharp falls in the price of oil and other commodities to have weighed heavily on the value of commodity imports. However, it appears that falling prices were more than offset by a pick-up in import volumes. Looking ahead, although the global economy remains fragile, we nonetheless expect growth in many of China’s key export markets, such as the US, to stage a slight recovery this year," Julian Evans-Pritchard, from Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal.
China's economic growth slowed to 7.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2014, marking its weakest quarter since the start of the global financial crisis.
The country's growth rate for 2014 will be announced next week, and many analysts believe the growth will fail to reach the government's target of about 7.5 per cent for the year.
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