BEIJING (AP) -- China's trade surplus in September hit a new monthly high of $29.3 billion, the government said Monday.
In a sign of more balanced trade, however, the surplus for the first nine months of the year actually shrank by 2.6 percent, or $4.92 billion, when compared with the first nine months of last year.
The country's exports in September totaled $136.4 billion, a 21.5 percent increase over the same month last year, while imports grew 21.3 percent to $107.1 billion, the agency said.
The September figure surpasses the previous monthly high of $28.7 billion set in August. The trade gap is fueling demands by the United States and the European Union for Beijing to lift trade barriers and loosen currency controls.
September's surplus appears to shrug off warnings that businesses in the key export sector could suffer from the economic downturn in Europe -- the biggest destination for Chinese goods. Trade with the 27-nation EU rose 25.9 percent over the first nine months of the year to $322.5 billion, the agency said. It did not breakdown the figure by imports and exports.
During the first nine months of the year, imports from the U.S. rose 7 percent year-over-year to $62.4 billion, the agency said.
Trade with India, China's 10th largest trading partner, soared 54.9 percent in the first nine months. Trade with India is largely in China's favor, although the agency did not breakdown the figures.
September trade surplus data for individual countries and regions was due to be released Tuesday.
As the domestic economy slows, China has cut interest rates twice in the past two months and this week will increase the pool of money available for lending by reducing the amount Chinese banks must hold in reserve by a half percentage point to 16 percent.
A 5 percent tax on interest on bank deposits was also suspended and economists expect additional measures including more tax reductions and a government stimulus plan to boost growth.
With housing prices cooling and fears of higher unemployment, economists have cut growth forecasts for China this year to as low as 9 percent, down from last year's 11.9 percent.