The renminbi value of China’s imports ballooned in the quarter ended March as exports rose at half the rate of inbound shipments, according to figures released by China’s customs office ahead of March data, also due out today.

In local currency terms imports rose 31.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 according to the General Administration of Customs. Exports rose just 14.8 per cent during the period.

Taken together, those inbound and outbound shipments shook out to a trade surplus of Rmb454.9bn for the quarter. The renminbi strengthened 0.8 per cent over the same three-month period.

The quarterly figures arrive in lieu of data on March trade flows expected out today in both renminbi and dollar terms. Analysts expect the monthly figures to show export growth in the single digits and import growth remaining elevated after a surprise jump in February created China’s first trade deficit in years.

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