BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) - China's March exports rose 16.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports increased 20.3 percent, both exceeding market expectations, official data showed on Thursday.
That left the country with a trade surplus of $23.93 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said, reversing a rare deficit in February.
Exports in the first quarter of the year rose 8.2 percent from the same period last year, while imports surged 24.0 percent.
China's first-quarter trade surplus was $65.61 billion.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected March exports rose 3.2 percent on-year, after a surprise drop of 1.3 percent in February.
Imports had been expected to grow 18.0 percent, after a blowout 38.1 percent expansion the previous month.
Analysts had expected China to return to a surplus of $10.0 billion in March, versus February's $9.15 billion deficit.
China's economic data in January and February can be highly skewed by the timing of the long Lunar New Year holidays, when offices and factories shut for a week or more. (Reporting by Min Zhang and Elias Glenn; Editing by Kim Coghill)