YANTAI, CHINA – DECEMBER 5, 2023 – A large number of Chinese-made cars are ready to be loaded for export at Yantai Port in Yantai, Shandong province, China, Dec 5, 2023. (Photo credit should read CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

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BEIJING — China’s exports unexpectedly ticked higher in November, while imports fell slightly from a year ago, according to customs agency data released Thursday.

Exports in U.S. dollar terms rose by 0.5% from a year ago, contrary to expectations for a 1.1% decline, according to analysts polled by Reuters.

Imports fell in U.S. dollar terms by 0.6%, missing the Reuters’ forecast for a 3.3% increase from a year ago.

The muted change in trade did little to offset an overall decline by about 5% to 6% for China’s exports and imports for the first 11 months of 2023.

Bruce Pang, chief economist and head of research for Greater China at JLL, attributed the uptick in exports to businesses’ strategy of cutting prices to boost volume in recent months.

“External demand is still relatively weak, and holiday orders are lower than expected,” Pang said in Chinese, translated by CNBC.

“In general, the data show there are great challenges in both domestic and overseas demand, and policy support that only focuses on the supply side will not be able to achieve lasting results,” he said.

The value of China’s exports to the U.S. rose by 7% in November from a year ago, according to CNBC calculations of official data.

In contrast, China’s exports to the European Union fell by 14.5% year-on-year in November and those to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations fell by 7%, the analysis showed.

On imports, China bought less from the U.S. and Southeast Asia in November than a year ago, while purchases of goods from the EU rose slightly, the data showed.

In October, China’s imports unexpectedly rose from a year ago in U.S. dollar terms, according to customs data released last week. In contrast, exports fell by a greater-than-expected 6.4% during that time, the data showed.

Demand for Chinese goods has fallen this year as global growth slows.

A monthly Caixin survey of manufacturers, known as the purchasing managers index, rose to a three-month high in November of 50.7.

However, Caixin Insight Group senior economist Wang Zhe said in a report that “overseas demand remained sluggish, with the measure for new export orders staying in contraction for the fifth straight month.”

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said its manufacturing purchasing managers’ index unexpectedly ticked lower to 49.4 in November from 49.5 in October.

— CNBC’s Clement Tan contributed to this report.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.



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