More big numbers


China’s trade surplus with the United States rose by 13% in 2017 to a record $288 billion, according to Chinese official data. The actual figure reported on the Chinese side was 1.87 trillion yuan, which most Western news outlets converted to $276 billion. What’s $12 billion between friends? Take your pick; both numbers are big.

But not big enough. The U.S. reports trade figures monthly, and U.S. data showed that the trade deficit was already $342 billion by the end of November. Consolidating the $30 billion U.S. surplus with Hong Kong (most of which goes to China) puts the all-China deficit at $312 billion for the first 11 months of 2017. Add in another $30 billion or so for December, and the full-year 2017 U.S. trade deficit with China and Hong Kong is likely to come in at around $340 billion.

That means that the final 2017 U.S. deficit with China/HKG may be up 17%-18% from the $280 billion consolidated China/HKG deficit recorded for 2016.

So the stock market is up to $25 trillion or some such, and the media focus on nonsense.

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