March merchandise trade surplus in yuan terms was 194.6 billion yuan, down from 209.5 billion yuan in February. Exports jumped 18.7 percent from a year ago while imports slipped 1.7 percent. For the first quarter, the merchandise trade surplus was 810.2 billion yuan while exports were down 4.2 percent while imports were 8.2 percent lower. On a seasonally adjusted basis, exports were up 0.9 percent on the month while imports tumbled 8.0 percent. According to China's customs, a stable yuan helped foreign trade.
In U.S. dollar terms, the trade surplus was $29.86 billion, somewhat lower than expectations of $33.4 billion surplus. Exports were up 11.5 percent on the year -- far surpassing the 6.5 percent gain forecast. Imports were down 11.5 percent on the year against expectations for a drop of 13.2 percent.
The merchandise trade balance is the difference in value between imported and exported goods. A positive number indicates that more goods were exported than imported. The data are released in yuan but are converted to U.S. dollar terms.
Changes in the level of imports and exports, along with the difference between the two (the trade balance) are a valuable gauge of economic trends here and abroad. While these trade figures can directly impact all financial markets, they also affect currency values in foreign exchange markets. However, the foreign exchange impact is muted here given that the currency is pegged to a basket of currencies and its value is determined daily by the government.
China's growth stems from its exports to the industrialized world. And in turn, global growth is dependent upon Chinese growth, especially since the financial woes of 2008.
Merchandise trade statistics are compiled and published by Customs General Administration (CGA) on a monthly basis. Preliminary estimates are available about 13 days after the reference month with details available within 25 days. Since 1980, the compilation of Customs statistics follows the concepts and definitions of the International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions. Data are released for total imports and exports in the Chinese currency and the U.S. dollar. There are five main categories each for primary and manufactured goods. Detailed information is available by category, destination country, foreign enterprises and domestic region to name a few. Geographically, the data covers the customs territory of the mainland China and excludes Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.