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China's Trade Surplus Increases in January

China's trade surplus hit $19.5 billion in January, an increase of more than 22 percent from a year ago.

The state-run Xinhua news service says January's figures were down compared to the previous month's surplus of $22.7 billion. China hit a record $262.5 billion trade surplus in 2007.

China's growing trade surplus has been a point of contention with both the United States and the European Union.

China's major trading partners accuse Beijing of manipulating its currency, the yuan, to keep its value low and give Chinese products an unfair price advantage on world markets.

China has allowed its currency's value to rise, but not enough to stop the growing surplus.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, urged China to loosen its grip on the yuan during a visit to Beijing, Friday.

He says he told Chinese officials that doing so would address both "global imbalances" and the country's own economic challenges.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.