China’s February exports beat analysts’ estimates, rising 21.8 percent year-over-year, according to official data released on Friday. The news suggests that the country’s growth acceleration in the fourth quarter of last year is continuing into 2013.

The news was a welcome positive sign for the global economy as an increase in Chinese exports means demand elsewhere has risen. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predict the country’s industrial output for the first two months of 2013 will be 10.5 percent.

"We are impressed by China's ability to expand its exports so strongly despite muted external environment," Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, told Reuters. "The data is positive for sentiment."

Imports, however, were weak, falling 15.2 percent to a 13-month low. Despite this slowdown in demand for foreign goods, Chinese consumers may have bolstered retail spending by 15 percent in January and February, according to the average consensus by analysts.

China's monthly retail sales and industrial output figures are scheduled to be released Saturday.

The pickup in exports at the start of the year comes after China expanded 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. The country combines its economic data for the first two months of every year in order to adjust for the effects of the Spring Festival, the timing of which varies from year to year.