BEIJING -- China’s export growth accelerated in October, boosting the total so far this year back above pre-coronavirus levels for the first time.
Exports in October rose 11.4% over a year earlier to $237.2 billion, up from September’s 9.9% gain, customs data showed Saturday. Imports rose 4.7% by value to $178.7 billion, decelerating from the previous month’s 13.2% surge, though volumes of some goods increased.
China’s exporters have benefited from the relatively early reopening of the second-largest global economy and demand for masks and other medical supplies. That has allowed them to take market share from foreign competitors that are hampered by anti-disease controls.
Exports for the first 10 months of 2020 rose 0.5% over the same period a year earlier to $2 trillion, the first positive year-to-date figure. Exports have been bigger than the same month a year earlier since April, but after the first quarter's 13.3% contraction, total growth for 2020 was in negative territory until now.
In October, exports to the United States in October gained 22.5% over a year ago to $43.8 billion, up from the previous month’s 20.5% growth. Imports of American goods jumped 33.4% to $12.5 billion, an increase from September’s 24.5% growth.
China’s monthly global trade surplus swelled 35.8% over a year earlier to $58.4 billion, one of its biggest on record.
The politically sensitive trade gap with the United States expanded 18.5% to $31.4 billion.
China is on track to become the only major economy to grow this year while activity in the United States, Europe and Japan shrinks.
China’s economy shrank by 6.8% from a year earlier in the first three months of 2020 after factories, shops and offices were shut down to fight the virus. Growth rebounded to 3.2% in the second quarter and accelerated to 4.9% in the three months ending in September.
Automakers and other large manufacturers are back to normal activity, helping to drive demand for imported iron ore, copper and other industrial materials. Retail sales have rebounded to above pre-virus levels, rising 0.5% over a year earlier in the quarter ending in September.
Imports have fallen by value after weak demand caused prices of oil and other commodities to plunge. But volumes of foreign food and other goods bought by Chinese factories and consumers have risen.
Imports of crude oil rose 10.6% by volume over a year earlier in the first nine months of 2020 but fell 24.5% by value, according to customs data. Grain imports rose 28.5% by volume but only 21% by value.
Exports to the 27-nation European Union fell 21% in October to $22.7 billion. Imports of European goods sank 20.4% to $33.6 billion. China’s surplus with the EU widened by 149% over a year ago to $33.3 billion.