China trade surplus drops, but not with US

TOP NEWS: China Trade Cools As Imports Fall Short But Exports Rise 11%

"Although the trade data are often volatile, this latest decline (in import volumes)...is a sign that domestic demand may have weakened at the end of previous year", Capital Economics Senior China Economist Julian Evans-Pritchard wrote in a note.

Imports from North Korea slumped 81.6 percent year-on-year to $54.34 million, Chinese customs spokesman Huang Songping said in a briefing in Beijing on Friday.

"In terms of how big of an impact it (falling trade) had on North Korea, there was definitely impact because some of their products could only go to China while others could only be imported from China", said Chen Fengying, an economics expert at state-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

But total trade surplus in 2017 registered a decline of 14.2 percent, from about $490 billion in 2016. Imports soared 15.9% to $1.84 trillion, the strongest increase in six years.

Trade with China is politically sensitive as the world's second-largest economy runs surpluses against many of its trading partners.

Mr. Trump savaged China as a predatory trader during his campaign for the presidency. His administration has slapped anti-dumping tariffs on a range of Chinese imports, such as aluminum and steel, and toughened its stance on Chinese investment in the U.S.

TOP NEWS: China Trade Cools As Imports Fall Short But Exports Rise 11%

Some economists and market analysts expect that, in the very least, 2018 is likely to bring plenty of trade fiction, and US penalties on some Chinese imports.

Chinese officials have threatened retaliation for any US penalties in closed-door meetings with American officials and companies. The investigation, based on the rarely-used Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, could be a precursor to retaliatory US policies such as hefty tariffs on Chinese imports.

ANZ analyst Betty Wang said that even though a broad-based bilateral trade war is "highly unlikely" in 2018, it is possible that the US will take "unilateral actions on Chinese exports in specific sectors". The U.S.is expected to release the findings of the investigation soon. That was down 12 percent from November's 9.01 million bpd, the second-highest level on record. Last month marked the first time since mid-2016 that imports grew slower than exports.

"LNG imports last month reached new highs according to our cargo monitoring and pipeline imports from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also ramped from previous month", said Diao Zhouwei, analyst of IHS Markit.

He estimated that imports declined by the biggest margin in nearly two years in volume terms in December as purchases of industrial commodities plummeted.

Arrivals for December came in at about 84.3 million tonnes, versus 94.54 million tonnes in November, according to Reuters' calculations based on annual data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

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