* Dec exports +4.3 pct yr/yr, vs f'cast +4.9 pct
* Dec import +8.3 pct yr/yr, vs f'cast +5.3 pct
* Dec trade surplus $25.6 bln vs f'cast $31.2 bln
* 2013 exports up +7.9 pct yr/yr, imports +7.3 pct
* 2014 outlook seen brighter as global demand improves
By Xiaoyi Shao and Kevin Yao
BEIJING, Jan 10 China's export growth slowed
more than expected in December due to a higher comparison base a
year earlier and a clamp-down on speculative activities
disguised as export deals, missing the official target on
But the outlook for 2014 is expected to be brighter as
global demand picks up, giving more wiggle room for Chinese
leaders to push through reforms to balance the world's
"Exports weakened dramatically, but were close to the
consensus. The data is positive for China and Asia sentiment as
it alleviates concerns that China is slowing too sharply," said
Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist and strategist for Credit
Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.
Exports rose 4.3 percent in December from a year earlier,
the Customs Administration said on Friday, slowing from 12.7
percent in November and compared to market expectations of 4.9
Imports rose 8.3 percent, quickening from 5.3 percent in
November and overshooting the same rate expected by the market,
raising optimism that domestic demand may remain firm despite
signs that the world's second-largest economy is losing steam.
The December trade surplus fell 24.3 percent from a year
earlier to $25.6 billion, missing the forecast of $31.2 billion.
Exports to the United States rose 3 percent in December from
a year earlier, while sales to the European Union rose 3.9
percent and those to Japan climbed 5.5 percent, according to
For 2013, exports rose 7.9 percent and imports rose 7.3
percent, producing a trade surplus of $259.8 billion, up 12.4
percent from 2012.
China's combined exports and imports rose 7.6 percent in
2013, below the official target of 8 percent. In 2012, China
missed a 10 percent annual growth target. The government does
not set any target on exports.
Uncertain global demand, a stronger yuan currency and rising
labour costs have taken their toll on Chinese exporters, but
analysts believe sales could pick up modestly in 2014 due to
improved demand from the United States and Europe.
"China's exporters are facing pressures from rising costs,
including increasing labour costs and yuan currency
appreciation," customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng told a news
conference, adding that trade is entering a "stabilisation and
development stage" in 2014.
"The strengthening recovering of developed economies will
likely gradually lead the global economy out of the financial
crisis, which will improve the external environment of China's
exports," said Zheng.
China's Commerce Ministry has pledged to maintain steady
trade growth this year and further balance its trade structure
by increasing imports of raw materials and energy products.
"The biggest surprise is December imports. This suggests
China's domestic demand is continuing to improve," said Sun
Junwei, China economist at HSBC in Beijing.
"We expect exports to show further recovery in 2014, but the
magnitude would be small and at around 10 percent. Imports could
be supported by steady domestic demand and are likely to grow
around 8 percent this year."
Li Jian, head of foreign trade research of the Chinese
Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation - the
Commerce Ministry's think tank, has also predicted 2014 export
growth of around 10 percent.
The government is due to issue fourth-quarter gross domestic
product data on Jan. 20. A Reuters poll showed annual GDP growth
could slow to 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter, putting 2013
growth on track for the weakest showing in 14 years.
Chinese leaders have pledged reasonable growth in 2014, and
sources at top government think tanks told Reuters they expect a
growth target of 7.5 percent, the same as for 2013.
China's leaders want to wean the economy off its heavy
reliance on investment and exports in favour of a more
sustainable expansion in consumption and have unveiled the
boldest economic and social reforms in nearly three decades to
pursue that goal.