In yuan terms, Beijing said exports were 18.7 per cent higher than a low point a year earlier – news that cheered markets worldwide and pushed up commodity prices, particularly industrial metals such as zinc and copper.
Stock markets were further boosted by reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia had agreed to limit oil output ahead of a producers’ meeting in Doha on Sunday.
The Chinese trade data for March also showed a year-on-year decline in imports of 1.7 per cent, resulting in a trade surplus of 194.6bn yuan (£21 billion). On Friday, Beijing will publish GDP growth figures for the first quarter of the year, which are expected to show a 6.8 per cent rise.
Analysts said that, after a year when the Chinese slowdown had dampened expectations of global growth, the trade figures hinted that the situation might not be as grim as many had expected.
“The trade numbers are very, very strong. On the ground, the fundamentals appear to be consolidating. On the demand side, the property market has certainly been very supportive,” said Xiao Fu, head of commodity market strategy at Bank of China International in London.
Robin Brant, BBC News reporter in Shanghai, commented, “Almost everything is up, so on the face of it good news for China. But when you look at the figures for this time last year, there really was only one way to go.