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Chinese exports unexpectedly perk up in January

[BEIJING] Chinese exports unexpectedly rose last month, according to official data released on Thursday just as China sat down for crucial trade talks in Beijing with its top trade partner the United States.

Exports rose 9.1 per cent in January from a year earlier, data from the customs administration showed, ahead of forecasts and turning a corner after exports fell in December.

China's imports, however, continued to fall in January, down 1.5 per cent from a year earlier, though at a slower pace than a 10.2 per cent decline forecast by Bloomberg News.

Analysts cautioned that it is difficult to compare trends at the start of each year due to the Chinese New Year holiday, which came in early February this year and can affect business activity.

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"The broad trend in shipments still appears to be pointing down," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

"The downbeat outlook for global growth means that this year is likely to be challenging for Chinese exporters, even if the ongoing US-China trade negotiations culminate in a deal," Mr Evans-Pritchard wrote in a research note.

Officials from the world's top two economies are holding negotiations in Beijing on Thursday and Friday in a bid to resolve their thorny trade dispute.

China and the US have already imposed new duties on more than US$360 billion in two-way trade, which has weighed on their manufacturing sectors and shaken global financial markets.

Pressure to seal an accord ahead of a March 1 deadline set by Donald Trump appears to have eased slightly after the US president indicated he was open to extending a trade truce depending on progress in Beijing.

Mr Trump in December postponed plans to sharply hike tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports to allow more time for negotiation.

A slew of bad economic data has added to concerns about China's economy, which grew at its slowest pace in almost three decades last year.

AFP