China’s exports jump to highest level in over two decades after COVID-19 hit

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China’s export growth jumped to the highest in over two decades, official data showed Sunday, with imports also surging in a sharp bounce back from the coronavirus outbreak that had brought activity to a near halt.

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Electronics and textile exports such as masks contributed to the spike in outbound shipments, as demand for work-from-home supplies and protective gear against the virus outbreak soared during the pandemic.

Exports spiked 60.6 percent on-year in the January-February period, above analysts’ expectations and boosted by electronics and mask shipments, while imports rose 22.2 percnt, official data showed Sunday.

Face masks displayed at a Hong Kong press conference. (AFP)
Face masks displayed at a Hong Kong press conference. (AFP)

The latest customs figures stand in stark contrast to last year’s fall of around 17 percent in exports and 4 percent drop in imports.

The country struggled to contain the spread of Covid-19 early on, with consumers staying home and businesses seeing a slow return to operations.

The comparison to last year is also likely to have bolstered the latest figures. China’s overall trade surplus came in at $103.3 billion, its customs administration said.

Chinese authorities started combining January and February trade data last year, while it battled the coronavirus outbreak.

This is in line with how some other indicators are released, to smooth over distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, which can fall in either month.

On Sunday, official data showed that electronics exports rose 54.1 percent, while textiles including masks rose 50.2 percent.

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