Chinese stocks jumped after the country’s exports posted the first sign of growth in nine months. And what growth it was. March exports surged 11.5% year over year, the first increase since June and the largest percentage rise since February 2015.
The rise was especially dramatic after plunging 25.4% in February, the worst showing since May 2009. Economists polled by Reuters had expected March exports to rise just 2.5%.
The news did much to calm investors worried about the second-largest economy spiraling down into a hard landing, and instead gave hope the economy is stabilizing.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index climbed 1.4% to 3,067 in Wednesday trading. The Shenzhen Stock Exchange Composite Index also rose 1.4% to 1,962. The Chinext Price Index, which focuses on small-cap stocks, gained 1.3% to 2,294 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index leapt 3.2% to 21,159.
However, economists said that Wednesday’s data was not evidence of stronger global demand, reported Reuters, as it was heavily skewed by base effects and seasonal distortions from the Lunar New Year
Nonetheless, in addition to the stocks rising, the Chinese currency, regional stock markets and the Australian dollar all firmed on the report.
“China’s foreign trade sector will likely improve from last year due to low comparables, but the improvement will not be dramatic, as the trends in external markets are not great,” Wang Tie Shi, economist with Industrial Securities told Reuters.
While imports continued to fall, the 7.6% in dollar denominated terms decline was much less than expected, boosted by rising volumes of most major commodities, notably copper and iron ore. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected imports to fall 10.2%, based on weakness in global demand.
China ended March with a trade surplus of $29.86 billion, compared to the forecast of $30.85 billion, reported the General Administration of Customs.
“I think we should focus on the better-than-expected imports growth rate, which means domestic demand is also recovering, driven by infrastructure investment and also the real estate sector recovery,” Ma Xiaoping, analyst at HSBC told Reuters.