Chinese claim trade increase, but figures don’t add up

08 May 2013


Much better than expected trade figures from China, at first instance suggested that the economy of the Asian giant was improving, though analysts continued to be sceptical about the numbers.

China FlagChinese exports were up 14.7 per cent, beating expectations of 10.3 per cent, even as imports rose 16.8 per cent, giving the country a trade surplus of $18.16 billion in April, official figures showed.

Imports were down 7.7 per cent in March while exports increased a modest 2.7 per cent, reflecting the scale of the turnaround.

The numbers though seemed to jar with the figures of neighbouring countries, many of which had seen a slowdown in growth.

Many analysts, meanwhile continued to believe exporters were overstating their business volumes in order to disguise capital inflows and get round capital restrictions. The Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange recently cracked down on funds being brought into the country.

This theory gets added credence due to the fact that the Chinese manufacturing purchasing managers' index fell declined from 51.6 in March to 50.4 in April and new export orders also declined neither of which tallied with the strong numbers reported overnight.

Meanwhile, China's export growth also surged unexpectedly in April even as shipments to the US and Europe decreased, spurring Bank of America Corp and Mizuho Securities Co analysts to say the figures had been inflated by fake reports.

The report cast doubts on the reliability of trade data from the world's largest exporting nation, with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc pointing out that export gains might have been overstated by 9 percentage points.

Regulators announced a crackdown this week on companies using trade reports to disguise speculative money inflows chasing a yuan that had already exceeded the gains against the dollar reported last year.

According to Louis Kuijs, the RBS chief China economist, exports actually had not done all that well. Speaking on Bloomberg Television from Hong Kong, the RBS chief China economist who previously worked for the World Bank, said it reflected a ''pretty weak global picture, weak demand for Chinese exports'' and the impact from yuan appreciation on China's shipments.

The report today showed a 0.1 per cent drop in US shipments as also a 6.4 per cent decline in exports to the EU. Earlier figures showed China's shipments to Hong Kong were up 92.9 per cent in March, while Hong Kong said imports from were up 13.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, Kuijs' stand in questioning today's export numbers, added to scepticism over previous data this year.

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