* China Jan exports, imports rise, beat forecasts
* Trade surplus highest since 2016
* Commodities boost imports
* Spectre of Trump protectionism clouding trade outlook
(Adds data on U.S. trade balance, detail)
BEIJING, Feb 10 China reported
better-than-expected trade data for January as demand picked up
both at home and abroad, an encouraging start to 2017 for the
world's largest trading nation even as Asia's exporters brace
for a rise in U.S. protectionism.
January exports rose 7.9 percent from a year earlier as
global demand perked up, while imports expanded 16.7 percent on
improved domestic appetite for coal, crude oil and iron ore,
preliminary data from customs showed on Friday.
That left the country with a initial trade surplus of $51.35
billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs
Customs is due to release updated data for trade on Feb. 23.
China watchers caution that trends in January and February
can be distorted by the long Lunar New Year holidays, with
business slowing down weeks ahead of time and many firms scaling
back operations or closing. The holiday began in late January
this year and early February last year.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected January shipments to
rise 3.3 percent after a dismal 2016 that saw exports slump 7.7
percent due to stubbornly weak global demand.
Imports had been forecast to rise 10.0 percent, accelerating
from 3.1 percent growth in December.
Analysts were expecting China's trade surplus to have risen
to $47.90 billion in January, versus December's $40.71 billion,
with growing attention on its large trade surplus with the
United States as new U.S. President Donald Trump ramps up his
While China's exports fell the most last year since 2009,
other major Asian exporters have seen a rebound in recent
months, due largely to stronger electronics shipments and higher
prices for oil products such a gasoline and petrochemicals.
Taiwan's January exports rose 7 percent on-year, the fourth
straight month of gains, while Korea's gained 11.2 percent.
China's exports to the United States rose 6.2 percent in
January compared to a year earlier. The U.S. is China's largest
export market, accounting for 18.5 percent of its total exports.
China's imports from the U.S. rose 23.4 percent.
China's trade surplus with the U.S. was $21.37 billion in
January, down from $21.73 billion in December 2016, according to
data from China's customs bureau.
The surplus decreased $20.1 billion to $347.0 billion in
2016, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday.
Chinese data showed a smaller overall surplus but the
narrowing trend was similar.
Still, by either measure it remained well above the
sustained trade surplus of more than $20 billion that is one of
three criteria used by the U.S. Treasury to designate another
country as a currency manipulator.
Trump hasn't made good yet on his campaign pledges of
greater protectionist measures in the early days of his
presidency, but analysts say the spectre of deteriorating
U.S.-China trade and political ties is likely to weigh on
confidence of exporters and investors worldwide.
The United States is close to slapping duties on imports of
stainless steel from China after having issued a final
determination this month that the products were being subsidised
and dumped in the U.S. market at below fair value.
China's total trade surplus narrowed in 2016 to $510.7
Prolonged weakness in exports has forced China's government
to rely on higher spending and massive bank lending to boost the
economy, at the risk of adding to a huge pile of debt which some
analysts warn is nearing danger levels.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Kim Coghill)