July 13, 2017 11:47 am JST  (Updated July 13, 2017 1:03 pm JST)

China June trade beats expectations as global demand remains strong

A container area is seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, south of Shanghai. © Reuters

Beijing (Reuters) -- China reported better-than-expected trade data for June, suggesting the economy is holding up well thanks to firmer global demand, despite a cooling property market at home amid a financial crackdown that has put firms under pressure.

China's June exports rose 11.3 percent from a year earlier, while imports expanded 17.2 percent, both beating analysts' expectations, official data showed on Thursday.

That left the country with a trade surplus of $42.77 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had anticipated June shipments from the world's largest exporter to have risen 8.7 percent, in line with the annual growth figure in May.

"Looking ahead, we expect export growth to slow on uncertainties in external demand due to rising geopolitical risks and the stronger yuan-U.S. dollar exchange rate in the first half of 2017," Nomura researchers in a note after the data release.

"Import growth is also likely to moderate along with export growth, in our view. The cooling property market (in terms of sales) is likely to lead to slower domestic investment growth, which may also weigh on import growth."

Imports were forecast to have climbed 13.1 percent, easing from the unexpectedly strong 14.8 percent jump in May.

Analysts were expecting China's trade surplus to have widened to $42.44 billion in June from May's $40.81 billion.

Many economists still expect Beijing's intensifying crackdown on unscrupulous lending and a cooling property market to translate to slower growth after a surprisingly optimistic first quarter. But the decline is seen to be modest as the government is treading carefully to not brake too hard on growth.

China's appetite for imports, particularly for industrial commodities such as iron ore and coal used to feed a year-long construction boom, has remained robust in recent months. This is thanks mostly to resilient real estate demand in smaller Chinese cities with lax property rules as authorities are keen to destock a housing glut.

Improving global demand has also boosted China's exports after years of declining shipments. Accelerating economic growth, particularly in the United States and Europe, has bolstered expert forecast that the current strength in trade will persist well into the second half of this year.

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