BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported on Friday an unexpected acceleration in export growth in September and a record trade surplus with the United States, which could exacerbate an already-heated dispute between Beijing and Washington.
September exports rose 14.5 percent from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed. That blew past forecasts for an 8.9 percent increase in a Reuters poll and was well above August’s 9.8 percent gain.
Growth in imports for September instead showed a moderate slowdown to 14.3 percent from 19.9 percent in August, slightly missing analysts’ forecast of a 15.0 percent growth.
China’s trade surplus with the United States widened to a record in September despite wider application of U.S. tariffs, an outcome that could push President Donald Trump to turn up the heat on Beijing in their trade dispute.
The politically-sensitive surplus was $34.13 billion in September, surpassing the record of $31.05 billion in August.
China’s export data has been surprisingly resilient to tariffs, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer U.S. duties went into effect.
A weaker yuan , which has depreciated about 6 percent against the dollar this year, may have taken the sting out of the tariffs imposed on $250 billion of exports to the United States.
Over the first nine months of the year, China’s surplus with its largest export market totaled $225.79 billion, compared with about $196.01 billion in the same period last year.
For trade with all countries, China logged a surplus of $31.69 billion for September, compared with forecasts in a Reuters poll for $19.4 billion and August’s surplus of $27.89 billion.
China’s economy is feeling the heat from a tit-for-tat tariff dispute and showing signs of slowing that prompted the central bank on Sunday to loosen policy by cutting banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for a fourth time this year.
A U.S. Treasury official this week voiced concerns about China’s recent currency depreciation.
With China’s manufacturing sector cooling and export orders shrinking, Beijing has pledged to increase export tax rebates from Nov. 1 for the second time this year and promised to cut corporate burden on a larger scale to help struggling Chinese firms.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its global economic growth forecasts for this year and next, saying that the U.S-China trade war was taking a toll. It also slashed China’s growth forecast for next year to 6.2 percent from 6.4 percent.
China will cut import tariffs on a wide range of goods beginning on Nov. 1, as part of Beijing’s pledge to take steps to increase imports this year amid rising tension.
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