China's January dollar-denominated exports climbed 9.1 percent, and imports edged down 1.5 percent from a year earlier, beating their forecasted results, fresh data from the General Administration of Customs showed Thursday.
In last December, China's exports fell 4.4 percent year-on-year and imports tumbled 7.6 percent. January's data surprised the market on the upside as experts had expected a 3.3 percent decrease of exports and a 10.2 percent drop of imports.
Analysts attributed the upbeat export number in January to the Chinese New Year effect, which fell on February 5, as companies usually rushed export orders before the week-long holiday.
Exports to the U.S. slipped 2.4 percent from a year earlier, and imports from it plunged 41.2 percent, and China's trade surplus with it narrowed slightly to 27.3 billion U.S. dollars, compared with 29.87 billion U.S. dollars in December.
Trade frictions between the world's two largest economies have cast a shadow over global trade, and negotiation teams from both countries are now in Beijing to strike a deal before the deadline of March 1 for further tariff hikes.
China's trade with the European Union, the ASEAN countries, and Japan increased 17.6 percent, 7.8 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, while trade with countries along the Belt and Road registered faster-than-average growth, with the combined trade volume standing at 770.8 billion yuan, up 11.5 percent year on year.
Import of soybeans surged 30 percent from the previous month to 7.38 million tons. Last December, the amount was 5.72 million tons, a record low since 2011.
Import of natural gas also hit a record high of 9.81 tons in January, up 26 percent from a year earlier. In 2018, China's total import of natural gas reached 904 million tons, the highest in history.