China's exports expanded much faster than expected in November but the annual increase in imports outpaced export growth, data from the General Administration of Customs showed Friday.
Reflecting the impact of currency movements over the year, imports grew by 15.6% in local currency terms, above the 12.5% level expected. Output cuts by Chinese steelmakers have led to tighter supplies, pushing steel prices to multi-year highs and driving up prices of iron ore as mills and trades restock in anticipation for steel production recovery after March.
Crude oil demand also increased, lifting to 37.04 million tonnes from 31.03 million tonnes a month earlier.
The numbers may help to ease concerns of slowing momentum in Asia's economic powerhouse, which had surprised markets with robust growth of almost 6.9 percent in the nine months of this year, thanks to a government-led infrastructure spending spree and unexpected strength in exports.
Iron ore imports "were not necessarily just by steel mills but could have been also purchased by traders", said Helen Lau at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.
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China's trade surplus widened in November to $40.21 billion from $38.2 billion the previous month, exceeding the median forecast for a $34.2 billion surplus.?
In yuan terms, the surplus fell to 263.6 billion yuan, down from 285.4 billion yuan in October.
China's overseas shipments unexpectedly jumped as global demand remained firm, while import growth remained steady.
The data has helped lift riskier assets across the region, seeing stocks add to earlier gains and helping to reverse earlier losses in the Australian and New Zealand dollar's and Chinese commodity futures.
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