China Reports Sharp Decline in Exports, But Imports Climb

China reported that its exports suffered a sharp decline for the month of September. According to the General Administration Customs in Beijing, the country’s shipments overseas fell by 0.3% to $185.6 billion.

Based on data compiled by Bloomberg from 46 estimates, China is expected to report an average gain of 5.5%. General Administration Customs explained that exports were weaker due to high basis of comparison with figures last year. The Chinese government has been trying to improve the accuracy of its trade data, which is probably one of the reasons of the unexpected drop in exports. Some analysts stated that China’s previous export figures were overstated.

According to the agency, China’s exports on a seasonally adjusted basis increased 5.3% in September from a year ago, and 8.3% from August. When asked about the decline of exports last month, Zheng Yuesheng, spokesperson of the General Customs Administration commented, “Sometimes a single month’s data can’t tell the true story, and there are other factors as well. I see this as a seasonal thing.”

A survey conducted on approximately 2,000 exports, Chinas shipments overseas “will maintain stable development” in the next two or three month, according to Zheng based on their statements regarding costs and orders.

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB and Citigroup stated that comparing the exports data with earlier figures could minimize the actual situation because of misrepresentations from exaggerated data in 2012.

Commenting on the impact of the inflated export data that began in the latter part of 2012, Shen Jianguang, chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd said, “It’s all quite murky” as there were fewer working days in September because of the timing of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday and the volatility currency in Southeast Asia.

According to Shen, Since July, there had been export recovery in Europe and the United States, but “it’s been pretty weak.” He added, “The driving force for China’s recovery at this stage is still housing and infrastructure investment.”

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its global growth forecast to 2.9% for 2013 and 3.6% next year. Last July, the IMF projected that the global growth rate will be 3.1% this year and 3.8% next year. The adjustment in the worldwide growth rate indicates that the export industry in China could face pressures.

On the other hand, China’s imports increased 7.4% to $170.4 billion, which means the government is succeeding in its effort to avert the slowdown of its economy. Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China projected that the country’s economic growth rate will be above 7.5% this year. According to him, economic data in the third quarter showed momentum in China’s economy and the problem of shadow banking as well as local government financial vehicles have been under control.

However, JP Morgan economist Haibin Zhu anticipated that China’s recovery may not continue. He said, “We remain cautious on the sustainability of the ongoing recovery. We expect the recovery will last until the end of the year but is likely to slow down again in 2014.”