BEIJING (Reuters) - China maintained solid export growth of 12.6 percent in May, slightly slower than in April, but still providing good news for Beijing's policymakers as they deal with tough trade negotiations with Washington.
Imports also rose more than anticipated in May and at the fastest pace since January, with the data coming at a time when China has pledged to its trade partners - including the United States - that steps would be taken to increase imports.
China, the world's largest exporter, has so far escaped any major blow to its foreign trade sector despite rising trade tensions with the United States, which last week warned it would continue to pursue tariffs on Chinese imports.
A third round of talks between the two economic heavyweights concluded in Beijing last weekend with few signs of progress, as China issued a counter-warning that any trade and business deals reached with Washington would be void if the United States implemented tariffs.
The median forecast from a Reuters survey of 32 analysts had pointed to 10 percent export growth in May, the actual outturn was just a shade below the 12.7 percent growth posted in April.
Irrespective of chances of a trade war, analysts warn that China's export growth is likely to stall.
"Even if a trade war is avoided, Chinese trade growth is still likely to edge down over the coming year as the global economy loses momentum and headwinds to domestic demand from slower credit growth intensify," Julian Evans-Pritchard, Senior China Economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the data.
Imports grew 26 percent in May, the General Administration of Customs said, beating analysts' forecast of 18.7 percent growth, and compared with a 21.5 percent rebound in April.
China posted a trade surplus of $24.92 billion for the month. Analysts had forecast the trade surplus would increase to $31.9 billion in May from $28.38 billion in April.
TRADE SURPLUS WITH U.S. WIDENS
China's exports to the United States rose 13.6 percent in the first five months of 2018 from a year earlier, compared with a 13.8 percent rise in January-April. Its imports from the United States rose 11.9 percent in the same period.
That widened China's surplus with the United States to $24.58 billion in May from $22.15 billion in April, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data released on Friday.
For January-May, the surplus stood at $104.85 billion, compared with about $92.9 billion in the same period last year.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Elias Glenn; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)