China will announce its December trade data at 9 p.m. ET tonight.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg are looking for imports to rise 3.5 percent year-over-year (YoY), from 0 percent in November. Exports are expected to rise 5 percent YoY, compared to 2.9 percent in November. Meanwhile, trade balance is expected to widen to $20 billion.
Bank of America's Ting Lu, whom Bloomberg ranked the third most accurate forecaster of the Chinese economy, expects imports to rise 3 percent and trade balance to widen to $19.7 billion.
He expects exports to rise 4.5 percent on the year as the blow from the strike in California has faded. The weakness in Europe and Japan makes him cautious on exports, but "the stabilization of export growth since 4Q12 could alleviate the fear of another global crisis and could convince exporters to rebuild inventories."
Import and export data are considered to be some of the most reliable indicators of the Chinese economy because it is less at risk of statistical adjustments and can be verified by comparing it with trade numbers reported by other companies.
Hard landing watchers pay close attention to import data because it has a tremendous domestic component and shows the state of domestic demand growth.
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