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A container carrying supplies for virus-hit Hubei Province is lifted at a railway port. Photo: Xinhua

China cancels January trade data release, will combine with February

  • The Customs Administration of China says it will combine trade data for January and February, removing volatility over the Lunar New Year period
  • The adjustment brings it in line with the way other major indicators are released, including consumption and industrial production

China’s customs agency said on Friday it would not release trade data for January, but would instead combine it with import and export figures for February.

The Customs Administration of China said it would release data for January and February at the same time, bringing it in line with the way other major indicators are published.

The National Bureau of Statistics publishes fixed-asset investment, consumption and industrial production for the first two months of the year together to remove seasonal influences from the Lunar New Year holiday, when economic activity generally halts.

Various other indicators are made public on a monthly basis, including inflation and the purchasing managers’ index, consistent with major trading partners.

China’s trade data for the first two months of the year can be volatile, as shipments are heavily affected by which month the Lunar New Year breaks lands.

The last-minute announcement came as many China watchers waited for the release of January’s trade data on Friday.

The statistics will not be available until early March, when many observers will be looking for clues about how committed China is to the terms of its phase one trade deal with the United States.

China and the US reached a partial deal last month, easing a bruising trade war that started more than 18 months ago.

In one chapter of the deal named “expanding trade”, the two sides said official data needs to be used to determine whether commitments, such as Chinese purchases of US goods, are being fulfilled. If an analysis of data shows conflicting results, the two countries need to consult.

The adjustment also comes as the Chinese government scrambles to staunch the economic damage done by the coronavirus outbreak, despite claims by officials the impact would be temporary and limited.

In a phone conversation on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump that China had put all its efforts into containing the virus outbreak and assured the American president that the virus did not change the long-term outlook for the world’s second largest economy.

White House spokesman Judd Deere added on Twitter the two leaders had agreed to continue extensive communication and cooperation, and reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the US-China phase one trade deal.

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