China's trade surplus dropped to $25.6B in December from $33.8B in November and missed consensus of $31.15B.
Export growth slowed to 4.3% from 12.7% and vs forecasts of 4.9%, due to a high comparison base a year earlier and a crack-down on speculation disguised as export transactions.
Imports rose 8.3% vs 5.3%, with estimates also 5.3%.
"Exports weakened dramatically, but were close to the consensus," says economist Dariusz Kowalczyk. "The data is positive for China and Asia sentiment as it alleviates concerns that China is slowing too sharply."
Kowalczyk also says that domestic demand is not as soft as had been feared. "The Chinese economy - while decelerating - is unlikely to see a sharp slowdown," he says.
Exports for 2013 rose 7.9% to $2.21T, imports 7.3% to $1.95T and total trade 7.6%. China expects the growth to continue this year. The full-year trade surplus was $259.75B, the third-largest ever.
The Shanghai Composite is -0.7% but the Hang Seng +0.5%.