Beijing: China's monthly trade surplus leaped to a record $47.3 billion in July, nearly tripling year-on-year, official data showed on Friday, as the world's second-largest economy saw export growth accelerate while imports surprisingly shrank.
Exports increased 14.5 per cent year-on-year to $212.9 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced, while imports decreased 1.6 per cent to $165.6 billion.
The surplus, which compared with one of $17.8 billion during the same month last year, beat China's previous record of $40.1 billion in November 2008 and far exceeded the median forecast of $27.7 billion in a Wall Street Journal survey of 15 economists.
Analysts said the figures could lead to upward pressure on China's yuan currency, also known as the renminbi (RMB), whose value is closely controlled by the authorities.
Export growth accelerated from June's gain of 7.2 per cent and beat expectations of 8.0 per cent. But imports, which had gained 5.5 per cent in June, failed to match the forecast of a 3.0 per cent increase.
ANZ Bank economists Liu Li-Gang and Zhou Hao said in a note that the surplus suggested "the appreciation pressure on RMB will likely increase" if the central bank does not intervene "actively" in the foreign exchange market.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Sylvia Sheng and Lu Ting agreed, adding in a note: "Super strong exports data point to a rebound in external demand."
Customs data showed that exports to the United States, the world's biggest economy, grew 12.3 per cent on-year in July, while those to Germany jumped 17.1 per cent, in line with a 17.0 per cent increase to the broader European Union.
The surprise fall in imports was mostly attributable to a crackdown on fraudulent commodity financing that came to light earlier this year, the ANZ economists said.
State media reported in June that a Chinese mining group allegedly used the same commodity stocks as collateral for loans of more than $2.5 billion from different banks.
'Bullish and bearish'
The figures come as China's economic activity has picked up steam since authorities introduced measures to shore up growth after it slowed at the beginning of the year.
Chinese stocks closed higher after the figures, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rising 0.31 per cent to 2,194.43.
But the Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts warned that the "July data contain both bullish and bearish messages".