China's exports grew at a faster-than-expected pace in November, data from the General Administration of Customs showed Friday.
Chinese coal imports rose in November from the month before on firm demand during the winter heating season, even as Beijing encourages a shift to cleaner fuels in its battle against pollution.
China's imports have been growing at a double-digit pace since January.
Imports in November expanded 17.7% from a year earlier, compared with a 17.2% gain in October. The surplus was forecast to fall to USD35.0 billion from about USD38.2 billion in October.
Some of China's northern provinces have ordered factories to throttle back or halt output to reduce notoriously thick winter smog. Output cuts by Chinese steelmakers have led to tighter supplies, pushing steel prices to multi-year highs and driving up prices of iron ore as mills and trades restock in anticipation for steel production recovery after March. According to calculations from Reuters, that was the second-highest monthly total on record.
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Iron ore imports "were not necessarily just by steel mills but could have been also purchased by traders", said Helen Lau at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.
470,000 tonnes of copper were imported, up from 333,000 tonnes in October.
The rebound in imports come as China's yuan has fallen 2.8 percent against the dollar since hitting its 2017 peak on September 8.
The trade surplus, a source of tension with major trade partners, came in at $40.2 billion, down from $43.1 billion a year earlier but more than the median projection of $35 billion.
In local currency terms, exports rose by 10.3% year-year, well above the 2% increase expected by economists.