China's trade performance was better than expected last month, as stronger exports to recovering overseas economies caused the trade surplus to widen to $US28.6 billion ($31.5 billion), customs figures show.
Improved exports, a key driver of growth for China, are a positive sign for the world's second-largest economy, which has struggled since early this year, analysts said.
The trade surplus rose 8.3 per cent from the same month last year and also widened from $US17.8 billion in July, according to customs figures released on Sunday.
Analysts had forecast a trade surplus of $US20.4 billion, according to a survey of 11 economists by Dow Jones Newswires.
"The surplus is higher than expected thanks to strong exports. The figures are good and show an upward trend in China's trade," Liao Qun, an economist at Citic Bank International, said.
"China's export markets began to grow strong again as the US is back on track and Europe is stabilising," he said.
Exports rose 7.2 per cent year-on-year to $US190.7 billion last month, customs said in a statement on its website. Economists had forecast a 6 per cent annual rise in exports for August, Dow Jones Newswires said. In July, exports grew just 5.1 per cent on the year.
Besides weak demand, China's exports have also been hurt by appreciation in its yuan currency, which makes its products more expensive overseas, analysts say.
Separately, imports rose a weaker-than-expected 7 per cent to $US162.1 billion in August, less than the 11.7 per cent rise forecast by analysts. Weak imports could still be a sign of worry for the economy, signalling that domestic demand is faltering, analysts said.
"The import figure is lower than expected, indicating that the demand from the domestic market is not that strong," Ma Xiaoping, a Beijing economist for HSBC, said. "However, there is no need to worry too much, as the effect of stimulus policies revealed earlier this year and the rebound in domestic demand will take time to realise."
The market is watching for signs of recovery in China. China's economy expanded 7.7 per cent last year, the slowest growth since 1999.
In the final quarter of last year, growth accelerated to 7.9 per cent, but has slowed in successive quarters to 7.7 per cent in the first quarter and 7.5 per cent in the second quarter. But China's manufacturing activity strengthened last month to its highest level in 16 months, official figures showed, with the closely-watched purchasing managers' index rising to 51 from 50.3 in July.