China Strong on Both Sides of the Trade Equation

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

China’s trade performance surged in March as exports and imports rose strongly.

Imports grew at their strongest rate in four years while exports continued the solid growth seen in the past few months.

In fact the surge in both exports and imports was much stronger than the pace of activity seen in surveys of manufacturing and services at the start of the month and other early data for the month and the quarter.

Imports jumped 38.1% year-on-year last month, the fastest rate of growth since February 2017 on high commodity prices and a sharp rise in volumes, beating a forecast of 23.3% forecast and compared with 17.3% growth in February.

That surge in imports saw China post a trade surplus of $US13.8 billion last month, versus analysts’ expectations for the surplus to rise to $52.05 billion from $37.88 billion in February (and $US103 billion for the first two months of 2021).

Imports for soybeans iron ore, copper and crude oil rose, thanks mostly to higher volumes and in the cases of iron ore, copper and grains, multi-year highs for prices.

Exports soared 30.6% in March from depressed March 2020 but at a slower pace from a record 154.9% growth in February (which was from the lock downed China of a year earlier). Analysts had forecast a 35.5% jump in shipments.

Exports to the US surged 53.6% to $US38.7 billion and China’s trade surplus with the United States slipped to $US21.37 billion in March from $US23.01 billion in February.

Thanks to the strong rise in exports in February and March and the surge in imports in March, the value of China’s foreign trade soared 29% in the quarter to more than $US1.29 billion.

In the first quarter of 2021, China’s imports of iron ore rose 8% to 283 million tons. Import of crude oil increased 9.5% 139 million tonnes, and soybeans shipments jumped 19% to 21.278 million tons.

China’s imports of gas (including LNG) rose 26.1% in March to 8.73 million tonnes and were up 19.1% from 24.66 million tonnes a year ago to 29.39 million tonnes for the three months to March.

Imports of major grains jumped in the first quarter. Corn imports rose by 437% to 6.727 million tons, and wheat was up by 131.2% to 2.925 million tons.

Copper imports for the March quarter totalled 1.44 million tonnes, up 11.9% year-on-year, and the highest first-quarter amount since at least 2008.

Imports of iron ore totalled more than 102 million tonnes in March, up sharply from the depressed levels of Covid-hit March 2020.

For the quarter iron ore imports totalled 283.44 million tonnes, from the 263 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2020.

China imported 1.02 million tonnes of meat in March, the highest monthly volume since at least January 2020.


About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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