China imports grow in August for 1st time in 2 years

A vendor loads goods from a pick-up station near a clothing wholesale market in Beijing, China, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. China's exports rose in August for the first time in two years, while the contraction in imports narrowed in a positive sign for global economic growth. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A worker loads goods for his customer from a pick-up station near a clothing wholesale market in Beijing, China, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. China's exports rose in August for the first time in two years, while the contraction in imports narrowed in a positive sign for global economic growth. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Containers are loaded onto a cargo ship for export at a port in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province, Thursday Sept. 08, 2016. China's exports rose in August for the first time in two years, while the contraction in imports narrowed in a positive sign for global economic growth. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING — China trade showed unexpected strength in August in a positive sign for global economic growth.

Imports rose by a better-than-forecast 1.5 percent over a year earlier, up from July's 12.5 percent plunge and the first monthly gain since 2014, customs data showed Thursday. Exports fell 2.8 percent but that was better than expected and an improvement over the previous month's 4.4 percent contraction.

The improvement in exports was a boost for Chinese leaders who are trying to protect millions of trade-supported jobs. Import growth suggested lackluster Chinese domestic demand might be recovering.

"A gradual recovery in global demand probably means some further upside to export growth in the coming quarters," Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report. "Import growth should also pick up further on the back of stronger domestic demand and a further recovery in global commodity prices."

Chinese economic growth held steady at 6.7 percent in the quarter ending in June but that was the lowest quarterly level since the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis.

The communist leadership has warned China's economic outlook will be "L-shaped," meaning a five-year-long decline is expected to level off but there is no sharp rebound in sight.

An unexpectedly sharp decline in global demand for Chinese goods over the past two years threatened to disrupt Beijing's marathon effort to reduce reliance on trade and investment. Those plans call for nurturing domestic consumer demand but are based on holding exports steady to avoid politically dangerous job losses.

China's trade figures have been depressed over the past year by a decline in global commodity prices but trade volumes also weakened.

Exports totaled $190.6 billion in August while imports were $138.5 billion. The global trade surplus was $52 billion.

The trade surplus with the 28-nation European Union, China's biggest trading partner, was $13.6 billion. The gap with the United States was $25.2 billion.

___

General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): www.customs.gov.cn

Must Read

US, Russia close on Syria deal, but Obama says not there yet

Sep 4, 2016

President Barack Obama says the United States and Russia are working "around the clock" to try to...

New wave of anti-China activists set for Hong Kong vote win

Sep 5, 2016

A new wave of anti-China activists appeared headed for victory in Hong Kong's most crucial...

Merkel appeals to Russia to enable Syria cease-fire

Sep 5, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is renewing an appeal to Russia to enable a cease-fire in Syria and...

Asian stocks drift as Fed rate outlook eases on service data

Sep 7, 2016

Asian stocks meandered Wednesday after a weak report on U.S. service companies reinforced...

China's electric vehicle industry shaken by scandal

Sep 13, 2016

China's electric vehicle industry, a flagship for Beijing's technology ambitions, has been rocked...