China recorded a better-than-expected trade surplus of $45.41 billion in October, customs said Saturday, but weaker export and import growth could be a worrisome sign for the world's second largest economy.
October's trade surplus expanded 46.3 percent from the same month last year, exceeding market expectations for a $42.3 billion surplus, according to a survey of 11 economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.
The surplus also widened from the $31.0 billion recorded in September, though it was off the record $49.8 billion for August, previous figures showed.
Exports jumped 11.6 percent year-on-year to $206.87 billion in October, while imports rose 4.6 percent to $161.46 billion, customs said.
"The trade surplus was driven by the contraction in growth of imports... and export growth was not very strong. So the quality of the surplus was not very high," Liu Xuezhi, a Shanghai-based analyst at Bank of Communications, told AFP.Growth in exports -- a key engine of China's economy -- slowed in October from a 15.3 percent year-on-year rise in September. Import growth remained weak in October, slowing from a 7.0 gain in September.
"Domestic demand is weak," Liu said. "De-stocking this year has led to consumption of cement, coal, iron ore and other raw materials to decline, making demand for imports weak."
China's economy has faltered this year, hit by a deflating property bubble as well as a government crackdown on corruption and weak external demand from Europe.
The Chinese economy grew an annual 7.3 percent in the third quarter, the slowest in more than five years since the depths of the global financial crisis, dipping below the government's target of around 7.5 percent for all of this year.
Beijing has so far clung to "targeted" measures to spur growth, cutting reserve requirements -- the amount of funds banks must put aside -- for some banks and loosening monetary policy by injecting cash into the banking system.
The central bank confirmed on Thursday that it had injected 769.5 billion yuan ($124 billion) into the banking system over the past two months.
Analysts expect the government to cling to targeted easing, though some say policymakers could still resort to an across-the-board cut in reserve requirements or even interest rates.
"Overall, the easing bias in China's monetary policy will be maintained," ANZ bank said in a research note on Friday. "China's central bank will intensify the effort to lower the cost of funds facing the real economy."