China 2020 exports up despite virus; surplus surges to $535 billion

China 2020 exports up despite virus; surplus surges to $535 billion

Shiptracking data showed earlier China's December LNG imports soared to a record of over 9 million tonnes, overtaking Japan for the second month in a row as the world's No.1 buyer.

A robust domestic recovery also spurred Chinese appetite for foreign products in December, with import growth quickening from the month prior and beating expectations in a Reuters poll.

Exports surged 18.1% in December over a year earlier to $281.9 billion.

"China's exports grew in 2020, taking market share from other export-oriented economies". China is expected to be the only major economy to see positive growth in 2020.

Although the world's second-largest economy sufered a record contraction in the first quarter of past year as the coronavirus essentially brought activity to a halt, it soon recovered as lockdowns in the country were eased and medical exports soared.

"Amid all the noises on de-coupling and de-globalization, somewhat unexpectedly, the pandemic has deepened the ties between China and the rest of the world", wrote Larry Hu, chief China economist for Macquarie Capital, in aresearch report.

But some worry a rise in raw material prices and in the yuan could squeeze exporters' profits.

The economists said China's exceptionally high export growth since the second quarter previous year reduced the economy's need for larger stimulus measures in 2020, which has thus lessened the burden of deleveraging and alleviated the usual pain from exiting loose fiscal and monetary policies.

"Exports continued to do well last month, as renewed lockdowns overseas ensured the shift in consumption from services to goods persisted in many of China's trading partners", said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, in a research note.

Increased inflows in December pushed full-year coal purchases to 303.99 million tonnes, the highest level on record, the data showed. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected exports to grow 15% after a 21.1% jump in November.

China's trade surplus with the United States widened past year, underlining the failure of Donald Trump to narrow the gap during his tenure, while demand soared for electronics and medical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Crushers bought Brazilian soybeans early in 2020, and turned to US cargoes in the fourth quarter when American beans hit the market, and as Beijing stepped up purchases of USA farm produce to meet the terms of a Phase 1 trade deal. Imports edged down 1.1% to just over $2 trillion.

"Judged by the surge of United States imports from China in 2020, it seems fair to say that Trump's trade war with the country failed", Kuijssaid.