China’s exports surged more than expected in June after its largest city eased lockdown rules, official data showed Wednesday, but import growth dipped while lingering Covid controls kept consumers jittery.
Business hub Shanghai reopened in June after being sealed off for two months to stamp out a coronavirus resurgence, helping to improve a backlog of goods.
But China is the only major economy still holding fast to a zero-Covid strategy with snap lockdowns and long quarantines, battering business activity and holding back a consumption recovery.
In June, exports rose more than expected at 17.9 percent on-year, up from 16.9 percent the month before, customs data showed Wednesday.
“We are expecting some of the backlogs to be clearing since companies in Shanghai have been able to operate with lockdown measures lifted in June,” Moody’s Analytics economist Heron Lim told AFP.
Growth in foreign trade “picked up significantly in May and June” on the back of an improving virus situation, policies to stabilise growth, and work resumption, customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Wednesday.
But imports rose just one percent, far below the four percent forecast in a Bloomberg survey of analysts.
“Although there are still some unstable and uncertain factors, domestic production and demand is gradually recovering and enterprises have quickly resumed work… in the second half of the year, imports and exports will maintain stable growth,” Li said.
Domestic demand was “heavily disrupted” by Covid measures, but there are signs of a rebound in services activity, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
A drop in import volumes points to “weakness in China’s construction sector”, however, said Capital Economics’ senior China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard.
Cooling global demand could also “soon deflate China’s pandemic export boom”, he added.
In the first six months, China’s trade with Russia hit 519 billion yuan ($77 billion), up 27 percent from a year ago, customs figures showed.
China’s economic data this week, including gross domestic product and retail sales figures due on Friday, are expected to set the stage for further policy support as an official growth target of 5.5 percent looks increasingly out of reach.
The country’s overall trade surplus came in at $97.9 billion, from $78.8 billion in May.