China's Exports Improve in December as Global Trade Picks Up

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog11-01-2024

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China's exports may have grown rapidly for a second consecutive month in December, a further sign that global trade is starting to recover 2024 on expectations of an upturn in the electronics sector and lower borrowing costs.

After ending a six-month slump, outbound shipments from the world's second-largest economy are expected to rise 1.7 percent year-on-year in December and 0.5 percent in November, according to the median forecast of 32 economists surveyed.

Global trade slows in 2023 as rising interest rates in the U.S., Europe and other major consumer markets dampen demand.

The United Nations has warned that trade in goods could shrink by nearly $2 trillion, or 8 percent, last year. But improved export data from China, South Korea and Germany suggest things are slowly improving.

South Korean exports, a closely watched indicator of global trade, grew for a third straight month in December, while Germany's latest export figures for November came as a surprise, rising 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Analysts also expect interest rates in the US and Europe to fall by at least 1.5 percentage points this year, which should improve demand for imported goods.

Tien-Chen Hsu, senior economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said, "There is growing evidence that the cyclical upturn in the global electronics industry is driving global trade to bottom out." He noted that Taiwan's export data grew better than expected in December. It was boosted by strong demand for high-tech products in the United States.

"This gives us reason to be optimistic about a more positive trade outlook for 2024," he added.

Chinese trade data, to be released on Friday, is also expected to show that imports rose 0.3 percent last month, following a 0.6 percent drop in November.

But South Korea's exports to China, a leading indicator of Chinese imports, fell 2.9% year-on-year in December, and Taiwan's exports were also down 6.4%. German exports to China rose 3.1% in November from a year earlier.

Forecasts for global trade in 2024 remain "highly uncertain and generally pessimistic", according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Global Trade Update released in December.

Global trade activity, as represented by the Baltic Dry Index, fell 7.3 percent on Tuesday to its lowest level since Nov. 23, reflecting challenges faced by shipping companies, including attacks on container ships in the Red Sea by Iran-allied Houthis.

The survey's median estimate indicated that China's trade surplus would increase, with analysts forecasting it would reach $74.8 billion, compared with $68.4 billion in November.

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