BEIJING—China’s trade surplus hit a record high in August for the second month in a row as imports fell on the back of domestic weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and exports grew on stronger U.S. and foreign demand.
Weak import demand suggests that the stimulus moves that Beijing has put in place this year—including fiscal spending on rail, social housing and energy programs and targeted monetary policy easing—lack staying power, which could prompt more stimulus measures to meet economic growth targets.
“The weak imports reinforce fears that the impact of any mini-stimulus or targeted measures didn’t last very long,” said ING economist Tim Condon.
The General Administration of Customs said Monday that exports grew 9.4% on year in August, down from a 14.5% rise in July, while imports declined by 2.4%, after a 1.6% drop in July. Exports were slightly higher than expected, while imports were significantly lower than forecast by a Wall Street Journal survey of 15 economists.
With exports rising to the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia and imports falling, China’s trade surplus with the rest of the world widened to a record of $49.8 billion in August, up from the $47.3 billion surplus posted in July, a development that could intensify calls from the U.S. Congress for Beijing to allow the yuan currency to appreciate further after weakness this year.