Increase in China’s imports while exports decline

China imports rose sharply in October while export growth continued to slow, according to data released Thursday that suggest robust domestic demand could offset the effects of weakening demand for Chinese goods in Europe and elsewhere.

The stronger-than-expected import data may also reflect inventory buildups as Chinese importers took advantage of price swings to stock up on crude oil, copper and other commodities, analysts said.

Over all, imports rose a surprising 28.7 percent, compared with levels a year ago, far surpassing an increase in September of 20.9 percent.

Export growth continued to moderate, rising 15.9 percent over levels of a year ago. Economists said the data — the weakest in eight months — reflected continued economic turmoil in Europe.

Shipments to Europe grew 7.5 percent compared with the level of a year earlier, down from an increase of 9.8 percent in September, Barclays Capital said in a note.

Growth in exports to the United States rebounded, increasing 14 percent in October compared with the level of a year earlier, UBS Securities said in a note. Increases in exports to the United States in the previous few months had risen 10 percent to 11 percent, the investment house said.

While the import data were surprisingly strong, Yang Lingxiu, a Barclays Capital economist, said the export data were not alarming. “The external weakness will influence growth in China but it is not a great slowdown,” he said. “It is a moderation in momentum.”

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