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China’s December exports rise for first time in five months

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BEIJING China's exports rose for the first time in five months last month and by more than expected, signalling a modest recovery in demand as Beijing and Washington agreed to defuse their trade war.

The world's largest economies are set to sign a Phase One trade deal today, marking a significant de-escalation but not an end to a dispute that has rattled financial markets and threatened to derail global economic growth.

After a rough year, China's exports ended last year on an upbeat note, rising 7.6 per cent last month from a year earlier, customs data showed yesterday. The median forecast from a Reuters poll of analysts had been for a 3.2 per cent rise in shipments, following November's 1.3 per cent drop.

Imports also beat expectations, jumping 16.3 per cent from a year earlier, though boosted in part by higher commodity prices. The Reuters poll had forecast 9.6 per cent growth versus 0.5 per cent in November.

While comparisons with a weak December last year flattered both figures, they also pointed to improving demand, both globally and within China, analysts said.

China posted a trade surplus of US$46.8 billion (S$63 billion) last month, compared with the poll's forecast for a US$48 billion surplus, and up from November's surplus of US$37.9 billion.

For all of last year, its total exports proved remarkably resilient to trade tensions, rising 0.5 per cent, though that was well off a near 10 per cent gain in 2018, reflecting weaker US sales. Imports fell 2.8 per cent last year as China's economic growth cooled to near 30-year lows, after rising 15.8 per cent in 2018. - REUTERS