Figures released by the General Administration of Customs showed March exports increased 10 percent year-on-year, down from a 21.8 percent increase in February, while March imports rose 14.1 year-on-year after falling 15.2-percent in February, which was largely due to the Lunar Year.
China, in its efforts to lessen its dependence on exports, has been seeking to boost domestic consumption, which may partly explain the deficit.
China's total foreign trade of imports and exports in the first quarter of this year rose 13.4 percent year-on-year to $976.67 billion, up from the 6.2 percent growth year-on-year in 2012, Xinhua News Agency reported. Quarterly trade surplus totaled $43.07 billion, compared with a surplus of only $660 million in the 2012 first quarter.
The Wall Street Journal said the March deficit of $884 million surprised the markets as economists in its survey had expected a $14.7 billion surplus.
However, the report said China's trade data in the first few months of the year are not easy to predict because of the Lunar New Year holiday, which typically falls in January or February and also because manufacturers stock up on imported raw materials early in the year which are then used in exports.
In February of last year, the country had a deficit of $31.48 billion.