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China's July trade surplus rockets to record US$47.3 billion: gov't

BEIJING -- China's monthly trade surplus leaped to a record US$47.3 billion in July, nearly tripling year-on-year, official data showed Friday, as the world's second-largest economy saw export growth accelerate while imports surprisingly shrank.

Exports increased 14.5 percent year-on-year to US$212.9 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced, while imports decreased 1.6 percent to US$165.6 billion.

The surplus, which compared with one of US$17.8 billion during the same month last year, beat China's previous record of US$40.1 billion in November 2008 and far exceeded the median forecast of US$27.7 billion in a Wall Street Journal survey of 15 economists.

Analysts said the figures could lead to upward pressure on China's yuan currency, also known as the renminbi (RMB), whose value is closely controlled by the authorities.

Export growth accelerated from June's gain of 7.2 percent and beat expectations of 8 percent. But imports, which had gained 5.5 percent in June, failed to match the forecast of a 3-percent increase.

ANZ Bank economists Liu Li-Gang and Zhou Hao said in a note that the surplus suggested “the appreciation pressure on RMB will likely increase” if the central bank does not intervene “actively” in the foreign exchange market.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Sylvia Sheng and Lu Ting agreed, adding in a note: “Super strong exports data point to a rebound in external demand.”

Customs data showed that exports to the United States, the world's biggest economy, grew 12.3 percent on-year in July, while those to Germany jumped 17.1 percent, in line with a 17.0 percent increase to the broader European Union.

The surprise fall in imports was mostly attributable to a crackdown on fraudulent commodity financing that came to light earlier this year, the ANZ economists said.

State media reported in June that a Chinese mining group allegedly used the same commodity stocks as collateral for loans of more than US$2.5 billion from different banks.

China's trade statistics are occasionally prone to distortions related to the timing of seasonal holidays such as the Lunar New Year, as well as over-reporting of exports.

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