Cargo ship

China has reported a surprise rise in exports in December, its first since June.

Market analysts had forecast a 4.1% decline, but Chinese customs reported a 2.3% rise compared with the same period last year. Experts have suggested that a weaker yuan may have boosted exports.

Imports were expected to fall by 7.9%, but dropped by just 4%.

Over the whole year, exports were down 1.8% and imports plunged 13.2%.

The Shanghai Composite index, which has seen several sharp falls since the start of the year due to currency factors, rose 0.7% after the data was released. China's central bank has made steps to lower the value of the yuan against the US dollar to boost exports. But investors were concerned that neighbouring countries would make similar moves in order to make it cheaper for other countries to buy their products.

Economic growth in China in 2015 is set to be its worst in a quarter of a decade. The government has forecast growth of 7%, but analysts suggest that weak data across several sectors may result in even lower growth.