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China announces unexpected trade deficit

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China's trade balance in February was 7.3 billion dollars in the red, the highest deficit for seven years, officials said Thursday.

Exports grew 2.4 per cent from a year earlier, while imports were up 19.4 per cent, customs officers said in Beijing, pushing the trade balance into negative figures for the first time in 11 months.

The shift in trade dynamics has eased international pressure on China to allow its currency to rise more quickly. January's trade balance was 6.5 billion dollars in Beijing's favour.

Trade figures in the first two months of the year are usually distorted by the Chinese new year. During the festivities, which fell in early February this year, many factories effectively close completely for a week or more.

Trade Minister Chen Deming said he was expecting a return to the normal surplus within the year.

Trade volume overall in February was up 10.6 per cent year-on-year, to 200 billion dollars.

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