China's trade balance moved from a deficit of $9.15 billion in February to a surplus of $23.93 billion in March, well above the consensus forecast for a surplus of $10.5 billion. Exports rose 16.4 percent on the year in March, after dropping 1.3 percent in February, again well above the consensus forecast for an increase of 4.5 percent. Imports rose 20.3 percent on the year in March, down from 38.1 percent in February, and just above the consensus forecast for an increase of 18.8 percent.
In seasonally adjusted terms, Chinese exports rose 29.4 percent on the month in March after dropping by 28.1 percent in February. Seasonally adjusted imports grew 1.2 percent on the month, after a small 0.3 percent fall in February.
Looking at year-to-date data helps to remove the impact of the timing of lunar new year holidays. For the three months to March 2017 China has recorded a trade surplus of $65.6 billion, down almost 50 percent from the balance of $125.7 billion recorded in the equivalent period in 2016. Exports are around $19 billion higher year-to-date than they were in 2016, but imports are around $79 billion higher, largely reflecting the impact of higher global oil prices..
In local currency terms, China's trade balance swung from deficit of Y60.4 billion in February to a surplus of Y164.3 billion in March. Exports rose 22.3 percent on the year, while imports rose 26.3 percent on the year.