Overnight China reported disappointing export data, missing expectations of +5%. The gvoernment explained this on the basis that they were losing their competitive edge since the Yuan has strengthened to 20 year highs but perhaps most telling is that fact that, as the FT reports, China became the world's biggest trader in goods for the first time last year - overtaking the US for all of 2013. We suspect the powers that be are starting to get nervous as this comes soon after China's surge to become the world's largest oil importer marking a notable shift in the world's most powerful nations - as trade with the rest of Asia and increasing flows with the Middle East represent a shift in power away from the US.
There is one exception.. of course - net imports with Japan continues its 3 year trend lower as tensions between the two nations sour further.
Via The FT,
The total value of China’s imports and exports in 2013 was $4.16tn, a 7.6 per cent increase from a year earlier on a renminbi-adjusted basis, according to figures released by the Chinese government on Friday.
The US will release its full-year figures in February but its total imports and exports of goods amounted to $3.57tn in the 11 months from January to November 2013, making it a virtual certainty that China is now the world’s biggest goods trading nation.
Some historians argue China was the world’s largest trading nation during the Qing dynasty – which lasted from 1644-1912 – despite the ambivalence of Chinese emperors toward foreign trade.
“This is a landmark milestone for our nation’s foreign trade development,” said Zheng Yuesheng, chief statistician of the customs administration.
Mr Zheng said he expected a stronger showing in 2014, thanks to an improving world economy, the impact of structural reforms in China and a lowered outlook for commodity prices, which would help offset rising costs of labour and financing for Chinese manufacturers.
One can only note that nothing lasts forver...
However, as always with China, there is a caveat...
The Chinese government itself has expressed some concern about Chinese trade data in late 2012 and early 2013. Statistics officials have acknowledged that during that period export numbers in particular were distorted by a huge amount of fake invoicing by companies and individuals evading China’s strict capital controls to move cash in and particularly out of the country.
That will probably lower growth figures for the first months of this year.
“We should be prepared for a period of low headline year-on-year export growth due largely to the faked exports data between December 2012 and April 2013,” said Lu Ting, China economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.