Chinese Data Boosts Economic Recovery Hopes

China's first official data of the year has shown signs of economic recovery, as exports, imports and new lending soared.

Exports in January were up by 25% compared to a year earlier at $187bn (£119bn), and imports surged by over 28% to $158bn (£100bn).

These pushed the resulting trade surplus up by more than 7% to $29bn (£18.5bn) - well beyond market expectations.

Economist Zhang Zhiwei, from Nomura International, said the figures were good news for China's recovery.

"These data suggest that external and domestic demand are both strong, which supports our view that the economy is on track for a cyclical recovery in the first half," he said.

Moody's economist Alaistair Chan added: "Seeing the underlying trend is a little difficult. Nevertheless, the data were above expectations and seem generally positive."

There was also good news from China's banking sector, as new lending more than doubled, compared with December, to 1.07trn yuan ($109bn).

It comes as inflation slowed to 2% in January - down from a seven-month peak of 2.5% in December.

But economists warned against focussing too much on last month's data, as it did not include the Lunar New Year holidays - which fell during January in 2012.

The Chinese government is seeking to boost growth after the country expanded at its slowest rate for 13 years in 2012.

China experienced seven straight quarters of slowing growth, but it picked up in the fourth quarter.

Its central bank cut interest rates twice last year and reduced the amount banks must keep in reserve in an attempt to encourage lending and stimulate growth.