Huge Chinese trade surplus provokes US

Julian Harris
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CHINESE exports hit a record high in April, it was revealed yesterday, pushing its trade surplus to nearly four times the expected level.

The news coincided with the third round of official talks between Chinese and US authorities in Washington DC, with the spotlight yet again on Beijing’s management of the yuan.

US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner pressed Chinese minster Chen Deming to allow faster appreciation of the yuan, yesterday, yet was told that appreciation is being conducted in a “very healthy manner.”

After registering a rare deficit in the first-quarter of the year, China’s trade balance soared to an $11.4bn (£6.97bn) surplus in April, on the back of a 29.9 per cent spike in exports.

Imports were up 21.8 per cent, below most predictions.

“We expected this trend to become more visible in the second half of the year on a pick-up in global growth and more significant slowing in domestic demand,” said Jian Chang of Barclays Capital. “But swings in commodity prices likely drove this to occur sooner than we expected.”

The data was welcomed by some analysts as a sign of robust global demand.

But Xu Biao, an economist with China Merchants Bank in Shenzhen, said the lower-than-expected imports may contain a more serious warning.

“Concerns about a slowdown have certainly intensified, and the risks of a worst-case scenario for the Chinese economy, namely a relatively low growth rate and a high inflation, are on the rise,” he said.

The data may pave the way for authorities to allow greater appreciation of the yuan, with stronger monetary tightening expected to come.