Factory workers make stuffed animals at a production workshop in a toy company in Huaibei city in east China's Anhui province. Photo: AFP

China’s exports rose in November at their fastest pace in almost three years, official figures showed Monday, as a surge in demand in key markets ahead of the festive period also helped the country post a record trade surplus.

The reading is the latest spot of good news out of the world’s number two economy, which has been enjoying a bounceback from virus-induced lockdowns that sent it into a rare contraction earlier in the year.

Overseas shipments grew 21.1% on-year last month to $268 billion thanks to strong demand for medical goods and electronics. 

The figures – the best since February 2018 – surpassed the 12% tipped in a Bloomberg poll of analysts and was much better than the 11.4% seen in October. The reading also marked the sixth straight month of growth.

However, imports expanded 4.5%, weaker than the 7.0% estimated and slightly worse than the previous month. 

In the first 11 months of the year, customs figures showed exports of textiles, including masks, surged 33 percent as governments put in place virus containment measures.

The data also showed China’s surplus with the rest of the world hit $75.42 billion in November, up from $58.44 billion in October and the largest on record dating back to 1990, according to Bloomberg News.

Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING, told AFP the latest trade figures were likely the result of “urgent export deliveries before Thanksgiving and Christmas,” with importers from western economies worried about lockdowns ahead of the year-end holidays.

But Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, cautioned: “Many Covid-related purchases won’t happen again and we eventually expect a global rotation from goods to services consumption as vaccine availability reduces the need for social distancing.”

In November, China’s trade surplus with the US – a major point of conflict in their bruising trade war – expanded 52 percent to $37.4 billion.