China's export growth unexpectedly surges in August despite Delta variant outbreaks

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s exports unexpectedly grew at a faster pace last month, as solid global demand offset some of the pressure on the world’s second-biggest economy from a resurgence of domestic Covid-19 cases and supply bottlenecks.

China staged an impressive recovery from a coronavirus-battered slump, but economic momentum has weakened recently due to the Delta variant-driven Covid-19 outbreaks, high raw material prices, slowing exports, tighter measures to tame hot property prices and a campaign to reduce carbon emissions.

Shipments from the world’s biggest exporter last month rose at a faster-than-expected rate of 25.6 per cent from a year earlier, from a 19.3 per cent gain in July, pointing to some resilience in China’s industrial sector.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast growth of 17.1 per cent.

Exports from neighbouring countries also showed encouraging growth last month, with South Korean shipments accelerating on strong overseas demand

Some of the port gridlock appears to have cleared in a boost to China’s exports last month.

The eastern coastal ports have suffered congestion as a terminal at the country’s second biggest container port shut down for two weeks due to a Covid-19 case. That put further pressure on global supply chains already struggling with a shortage of container vessels and high raw material prices.

Recent data pointed to slowing demand. China’s businesses came under increasing pressure last month as factory activity expanded at a slower pace while the service sector slumped into contraction. A global semiconductor shortage has added to the strains on exporters.

Imports increased 33.1 per cent year on year last month, beating an expected 26.8 per cent gain in the Reuters poll and compared with 28.1 per cent growth in the previous month.

China posted a trade surplus of US$58.34 billion (S$78.26 billion) last month, versus the poll’s forecast for a US$51.05 billion surplus and US$56.58 billion in July.

Many analysts expect the central bank to deliver a further cut to the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves later this year to lift growth, on top of July’s cut which released around one trillion yuan (S$207.7 billion) in long-term liquidity into the economy.

The country appears to have largely contained the latest coronavirus outbreaks of the more infectious Delta variant, but it prompted measures including mass testing for millions of people as well as travel restrictions of varying degrees last month.

China’s trade surplus with the United States rose to US$37.68 billion from US$35.4 billion in July, Reuters calculations based on the customs data showed.

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