Surprise Chinese trade surplus in March

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Surprise Chinese trade surplus in March

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A rise in exports meant China returned to a trade surplus in March – and exports to the United States were particularly strong.

Imports into China were lower than expected last month though they were up 5.3 percent on the same month last year – consistent with other data suggesting flagging domestic demand in the first quarter of the year.

That seems to show that a rebound in the world economy is boosting overseas orders just in time to compensate for a slowdown in Chinese domestic demand.

Chinese customs service data showed a solid 10.4 percent year-on-year bounce in sales to the United States.

The trade numbers overall reinforced the view of analysts that China’s trade-sensitive economy is set for a soft landing in 2012.

Trade was a net drag on growth last year as the world’s second biggest economy turned in its slowest rate of expansion since 2009, at 9.2 percent, with each quarter’s growth in 2011 successively weaker than the previous three months.

That trend is likely to have extended to a fifth consecutive quarter in the first three months of 2012, with analysts polled by Reuters forecasting an 8.3 percent growth rate that sets the economy on course for its slowest year in a decade.