China’s trade surplus in November fell to $14.53 billion from $17.03 billion in October, data from the General Administration of Customs showed Saturday.
Economists polled earlier by Dow Jones Newswires had a median forecast of $13.8 billion.
The decline in the surplus puts it back at almost the same level of September, when it was $14.51 billion.
“Exports have been holding up better than expected,” said Goldman Sachs economist Yu Song. “The implication of that is less policy loosening likely in the near term.”
In an encouraging sign for the global economy, both exports and imports performed better than expected, as China stocked up on metals and other commodities.
Exports rose 13.8% in November from a year earlier, down from October’s 15.9% rise but above economists’ median forecast of a 10.4% expansion.
Imports rose 22.1% from a year earlier, down from the 28.7% rise in November but beating the median forecast of a 19.0% increase.
Import volumes of iron ore, copper and soybeans all rose sharply from October as low prices encouraged bargain hunting.
China imported 64.2 million metric tons of iron ore in November, the highest volume of imports since January, representing an increase of 29% from October and 12% from a year earlier.
The uptick is likely the result of spot iron ore import prices falling 30% from mid-September to early November, one of its steepest declines on record.
Exports to the European Union, China’s largest trading partner, rose 15.1% from a year earlier in November, down from 16.3% growth in October.
Meanwhile, exports to the U.S. accelerated slightly, rising 14.8% from a year earlier compared to 14.6% in October.
Song said export growth is likely to slow to the “single digits” in the coming months, given the weak outlook for the global economy.