China reported an unexpected trade surplus last month as import growth trailed forecasts, underscoring risks of a deeper slowdown in the worldâ€™s second- largest economy.
Inbound shipments rose 5.3 percent, the customs bureau said today, below the 9 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Exports increased 8.9 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast, leaving a trade surplus of $5.35 billion, compared with a median projection for a $3.15 billion trade deficit.
Asian stocks fell amid renewed concern about growth in China, fiscal woes in Europe and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernankeâ€™s comment that the U.S. economy was far from a full recovery. Premier Wen Jiabao may need to balance gains in external demand with a slowdown in domestic consumption in deciding whether to add monetary or fiscal stimulus.
â€œThe sluggish import growth shows weakening domestic demand and investment growth while exports are stabilizing,â€ said Chang Jian, economist at Barclays Capital in Hong Kong who formerly worked for the World Bank. â€œPolicy makers need to strike a delicate balance between preserving growth and containing inflation at this stage, yet they may tilt more toward sustaining growth in the second quarter.â€
In Japan, the central bank refrained from expanding monetary easing to counter deflation, resisting pressure from lawmakers who five days ago rejected a nominee for the policy board. The Bank of Japan kept the key interest rate between zero and 0.1 percent and left its 30 trillion yen ($368 billion) asset-purchase fund and 35 trillion yen credit-lending program unchanged.