China Delays Trade Statistics, Merges January and February Data
China’s January trade data was scheduled to be released Friday, but will instead be announced together with February’s numbers, according to the customs administration.
The combination of the releases will bring the trade data into alignment with data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, which combines January and February together, according to a statement on Friday. February’s numbers are due on March 7, and the change was not announced in advance.
The statistics bureau releases an aggregate of January and February industrial output, retail sales and other indicators in an attempt to smooth out volatility caused by the Lunar New Year holiday. Many Chinese firms shut down over the holiday, which takes place at a different time each year, affecting consumption, production and other economic activity at an irregular interval.
Economists had expected that January exports would drop by 4.2% while imports would fall by 5.8%, due to the new year, which fell on Jan. 25. The worsening coronavirus outbreak in China forced authorities to extend the holiday into February, keeping factories shuttered for longer and likely affecting trade this month as well.
“The delay could be due to disruptions in shipments caused by the coronavirus, apart from holiday factors,” according to Michelle Lam, greater China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. Announcing the January and February data together would allow a more meaningful read, especially as there wasn’t likely to be any significant impact from the coronavirus on trade in January, she said.
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