China's exports surged 18.7% year-on-year in March to 1.05 trillion yuan (around $160 billion), authorities said today, in a positive sign for the world's second-largest economy.

Imports slipped 1.7% to 855.5 billion yuan, Customs said. 

The country's trade surplus jumped to 194.6 billion yuan, more than 13 times the figure for the same month last year. 

The data appeared more positive than expected, with a Bloomberg poll of economists predicting a 10% increase in exports in dollar terms. 

Chinese exports snapped an eight-month streak of declines, as the struggling sector has faced waning global demand. 

But the figures were helped by having a low basis of comparison, as exports plunged 15% year-on-year in March 2015. 

China's customs service said in a statement that while figures for the first quarter showed a yearly decline, seasonally adjusted monthly data were recovering.

"The import volume of major bulk commodities such as iron ore, crude oil, and copper maintained growth, while the prices of major import commodities remained low," it said. 

During the first three months of the year, China's trade with the European Union, US and ASEAN all declined. 

"There remain obvious obstacles facing China's foreign trade development," Customs said.