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China Feb trade surplus hits record US$60.6b

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[BEIJING] China's monthly trade surplus hit US$60.6 billion in February, the government said Sunday, a new record for the world's second-largest economy.

Exports leapt 48.3 per cent year-on-year to US$169.2 billion while imports fell 20.5 per cent to US$108.6 billion, Customs said on its website.

The country's trade surplus, long a source of tensions with its trading partners, rose above a previous all-time monthly high of US$60.0 billion recorded in January.

China is a key driver of global growth but its economy grew 7.4 per cent in 2014, its weakest for almost a quarter of a century, and recent indicators show signs the slowdown is continuing.

Customs attributed the surge in exports to a rise in outbound shipments ahead of the Lunar New Year, which fell on Feb 19 this year.

"Affected by the Spring Festival factors, export companies in the country again rushed to export ahead of the holiday and only resumed working after it," the statement said.

The Lunar New Year fell on Jan 31 in 2014, followed by a week-long national holiday, leading to a low comparison base for this February.

For the first two months of the year, China's trade surplus totalled US$120.7 billion, said the statement.

The figure stood at US$8.9 billion in the same period last year, Customs data showed.

"We still see strong headwinds facing China's exports this year," ANZ economists Liu Ligang and Zhou Hao said in a research note, pointing to a continuing contraction streak in export orders.

The high increase in February's exports was partly led by a low base in the same month last year, when authorities also cracked down on over-invoicing by traders seeking to disguise capital flows, they added.