CN: Merchandise Trade Balance

Wed Mar 07 21:25:00 CST 2018

Consensus Actual Previous
Level [$] $0.0B $33.74B $20.34B
Exports-Y/Y [$] 12.7% 44.5% 11.1%
Imports-Y/Y [$] 9.3% 6.3% 36.9%
Level [Yuan] ¥224.88B ¥135.8B
Exports-Y/Y [Yuan] 36.2% 6.0%
Imports-Y/Y [Yuan] -0.2% 30.2%

China's trade surplus in US dollar terms widened from $20.34 billion in January to $33.74 billion in February, above the consensus forecast for a zero balance. Year-on-year growth in exports accelerated from 11.1 percent in January to 44.5 percent in February, well above the consensus forecast of 12.7 percent, while year-on-year growth in imports slowed sharply from 36.9 percent to 6.3 percent, below the consensus forecast of 9.3 percent.

Some of this variability in year-on-year growth rates reflects differences in the timing of lunar new year holidays, which took place in mid-February this year but in late January in 2017. Looking at year-to-date data corrects for this impact, with exports up 24.4 percent year-to-date and imports up 21.7 percent. The trade balance for January and February combined is a surplus of $54.32 billion, compared with a surplus of $39.07 billion for the first two months of 2017.

In seasonally adjusted terms, Chinese exports grew 2.3 percent in February after falling 15.4 percent in January. Seasonally adjusted imports, meanwhile, fell 3.0 percent on the month, after dropping 2.1percent previously.

In domestic currency terms, China's trade surplus widened from CNY135.8 billion in January to CNY224.9 billion in February. Exports grew 36.2 percent on the year in yuan terms in February, up from 6.0 percent in January, while year-on-year growth in imports in yuan terms slowed from an increase of 30.2 percent to a fall of 0.2 percent.

The Merchandise Trade Balance is the difference in value between imported and exported goods. Data are denominated both in U.S. dollars and renminbi. A positive number indicates a surplus meaning that more goods were exported than imported.

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.