China posts first monthly trade deficit in 3 years as imports soar

The US trade deficit in goods with China rose nearly 13 percent over December 2016's level

The US trade deficit in goods with China rose nearly 13 percent over December 2016's level

But economists worry that Trump's tough talk could spark all-out trade wars in which foreign nations retaliate by boosting their tariffs on American goods.

The country's top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, on Sunday trimmed this year's official growth target to "around 6.5 percent", down from last year's expansion of 6.7 percent. If he follows through on these accusations as President, the United States would be obliged to take action against China which is why previous administrations have been unwilling to make such an allegation formally.

The U.S. trade deficit jumped in January to the highest level in almost five years as a flood of mobile phones and other consumer products widened America's trade gap with China. That was the highest level since March 2012.

Despite its overall deficit, China maintained a trade surplus with the USA in February of US$10.4 billion, the Customs data showed.

"Getting a clear read on China's trade at the start of the year is tough", Bloomberg Intelligence economists Tom Orlik and Fielding Chen wrote in a report. This was the first deficit in three years. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP rising at a 1.8 per cent rate in the first quarter. Many economists are looking for the USA economy to grow between 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent in 2017, up from anemic 1.6 per cent growth in 2016.

The dollar was trading marginally higher, while prices for USA government bonds were little changed. USA stocks fell as healthcare stocks took a beating after Mr. Trump tweeted about lowering drug prices. Weak global demand is a drag on Beijing's efforts to nurture self-sustaining economic growth based on consumer spending instead of trade and investment.

Market attention on the trade data is likely to increase sharply over the next few months given that trade is a key issue for the new US Administration. However, the trade deficit with Mexico narrowed to $3.9 billion, the smallest since July 2015.

Market demand, especially domestic demand, is increasing significantly, General Administration of Customs head Yu Guangzhou told reporters yesterday. That was the largest amount since July 2013.

Imports registered a whopping 38% year-on-year growth.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which renders the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit grew to $65.3 billion in January from $62 billion in the prior month. In contrast, there was a decline in capital goods and civilian aircraft exports for the month.

The figures follow upbeat reports on fourth-quarter growth and February factory activity. That was up 5.1 percent from December. There were increases in exports of industrial supplies and materials, which hit their highest level since December 2014.

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