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Hello Chinese exports, good-bye U.S. jobs

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- For millions of unemployed Americans, the news about China's surging export market isn't necessarily cause for celebration, even if it might be a harbinger for global recovery.

Chinese exports surged 50% in May from a year earlier, easily trouncing expectations for a 32% increase, according to a Reuters report citing a leaked statement from a Chinese official.

This information is an unconfirmed sneak peak of China's official trade report, which is expected to be released Thursday.

"The Chinese exports are still growing briskly and that implies that the world economy has thus weathered the financial instability in Europe," said Moody's chief economist John Lonski.

But Lonski also pointed out a negative side.

"The very high rates in [U.S.] unemployment are, in part, a consequence of the loss of jobs to less expensive manufacturing operations in countries such as China," he said.

Lonski said the furniture manufacturing industry in the South has lost jobs in direct competition with China, contributing to the relatively high unemployment rates of 10.3% in Tennessee, 10% in North Carolina and 10.4% in South Carolina.

Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, said this dynamic is being fueled, in part, by China's system of currency fixing, which keeps the yuan undervalued.

"By not letting their currency appreciate, it keeps their products artificially cheap at the WalMart (WMT, Fortune 500) and makes U.S. products artificially expensive in China," he said. "So that keeps out our exports and drives their sales here."

But Morici said that this system won't last forever and it could actually undermine China in the future just as it undermines the U.S. today.

"With currency being the way it is, Chinese exports are going to grow like gangbusters until there's no market left in the U.S., until there's so much unemployment in the U.S. we stop buying [their products,]" he said.

But investors seemed to take the news at face value sending Shanghai's SSE Composite Index Stocks 2.78% higher on the in response. The exuberance spread to Wall Street: The Dow Jones industrial average, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all rallied by about 1%.

Not everyone shared in this exuberance. There's reason to doubt the leaked news on the Chinese export report, according to Marc Chandler, chief foreign exchange strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman: it might not be true.

"In my experience, I say that China doesn't leak," he said. "There's no doubt that the Chinese official said it - three different people heard him say it - but that doesn't mean that it's a genuine leak, and I wouldn't say it's a legitimate driver of the markets." To top of page

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