A Chinese flag flies on a ship as it passes by shipping containers being unloaded at a dock of the Tianjin Port Group Co. in Tianjin, China.

Nelson Ching | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China reported March export data on Tuesday that fell short of analysts’ forecasts, while imports for the month rose faster than expected.

Chinese exports rose 30.6% year over year in US dollars last month, trailing the 35.5% increase expected by Reuters. Meanwhile, the country’s imports in US dollars rose 38.1% year over year in March, beating the 23.3% increase forecast by these analysts.

The unexpectedly sharp surge in imports caused China’s trade surplus to shrink to $ 13.8 billion in March, much less than the Reuters poll forecast of $ 52.05 billion.

Paras Anand, Fidelity International’s chief investment officer for the Asia-Pacific region, said the latest data showed that China’s economic recovery is entering “another phase”.

He told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia after the data was released that China’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has centered on manufacturing in recent months, as reflected in strong export figures. But demand now seems to be increasing, he added.

“As we now approach the recovery in China and reach more mature levels, we are seeing that consumption is also picking up very strongly,” said Anand.

China was the first country to report cases of the coronavirus in late 2019. Official data showed the economy bottomed out in the first quarter of 2020 when the number of infections peaked.

The country appeared to have largely contained the outbreak and was the only major economy to see growth last year when it expanded 2.3%. China has set itself a growth target of more than 6% for 2021, while the International Monetary Fund expects the Asian giant to expand 8.4% this year.