China Jan-May trade surplus $85.72 bln –official

China had a trade surplus of $85.72 billion in the first five months of 2007, up more than 80 percent from the same period a year before, a commerce ministry official said on Saturday.

Exports in the first five months were $443.5 billion, while imports in the same period totalled $357.8 billion, Yang Hongbin, a vice special commissioner with the Ministry of Commerce, said in a speech to an industry conference in Shanghai.

The figures suggested that China’s trade surplus in May was $22.41 billion, exceeding forecasts of $18.8 billion by economists polled by Reuters.

May trade figures are expected to be announced on June 12 by the customs administration but could come earlier.

April’s trade surplus was $16.9 billion, taking the figure in the first four months of the year to $63.31 billion.

“At such acceleration, I think China’s surplus could hit $110 billion in the first half of this year,” Yang said.

Yang also said China steel exports in May dropped to 6.17 million tonnes from April’s record 7.16 million tonnes, in part due to a week-long public holiday at the start of the month.

China’s steel products exports soared 117 percent to 27.44 million tonnes in the first five months of the year, Yang said, spurred partly by purchases from Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.

Imports of steel products into China were 7.28 million tonnes in the first five months, Yang said, indicating China’s steel trade surplus stood at 20.16 million tonnes for the period.