China exports beat forecasts, up almost 8% in January

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China posted much stronger-than-expected trade data last month as demand picked up at home and overseas, an encouraging start to the year for the world's largest trading nation even as Asia braces itself for a rise in United States protectionism under President Donald Trump.

China's overseas shipments rebounded on stronger global demand, putting the nation's external sector on a firmer footing as it braces for potential trade frictions with the USA under Donald Trump's presidency. Imports of iron ore and crude oil rose sharply by 85 percent and 72 percent year-on-year respectively, thanks to the rising commodity prices contributing more than half of total import growth in January, stated ANZ in a research report. Key economic data coming up include trade data which will be released Friday.

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 US market at below fair value. The US is China's largest export market, accounting for 18.5 percent of its total shipment overseas. A Reuters poll had suggested growth of 10%.

The surplus decreased $20.1 billion to $347.0 billion in 2016, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday, while Chinese data put it somewhat lower.

Manufacturing activity and fuel demand typically slows ahead of the Lunar New Year as production of raw materials eases. China's import from Russian Federation surged 39.3% to $3.1 bln.

In December 2016, the import of crude oil in China was 36.38 million metric tons. Coal purchases also soared, for use in both power generation and steelmaking.

Imports surged by 25.2 percent year-on-year to 911.2 billion yuan ($132.4 billion), indicating growing demand amid ongoing supply-side reform. "So that means they can afford to pay for more iron ore", said Lachlan Shaw, an analyst at UBS in Melbourne, adding that government efforts to reduce excess capacity were aiding the trend. Meanwhile, the significant recovery in January's imports was driven by commodity imports.

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