China’s imports and exports slumped again last month, authorities said yesterday, the latest setback for the world’s No. 1 trader in goods.
The figures come as a growth slowdown in China’s economy — whose demand for commodities and status as a vital market make it a key driver of the world economy — has sent panic through global markets.
Chinese authorities are targeting year-on-year growth of about 6 percent in two-way trade this year. Instead it fell by 9.1 percent overall last months, measured in US dollar terms, the Chinese General Administration of Customs said.
“Exports to the US and ASEAN continued to grow but shipments to the EU and Japan declined,” the customs authority said on its Web site.
Exports fell 5.5 percent year-on-year to US$196.9 billion last month, it said.
However, the drop was significantly less than the median forecast of a 6.6 percent decline in a survey of economists by Bloomberg News and also an improvement from July’s 8.3 percent fall.
Imports fell 13.8 percent year-on-year to US$136.6 billion, the customs authority said, attributing the decline to widespread commodity price falls.
It was the 10th consecutive monthly fall in import values, and worse than both the Bloomberg survey’s projection of a 7.9 percent decline, and July’s 8.1 percent drop.
“Globally everyone has had a very, very weak period of exports and economic growth,” Jefferies Group strategist Sean Darby said. “It’s not just China, but also Taiwan, Korea, and most of Asia and emerging markets. China gets the focus because it’s the biggest, but in reality, no one is having a very good time out there.”
China’s trade surplus was US$60.2 billion last month, the customs authority said, without giving the change in US dollar terms. It earlier said that measured in China’s yuan the surplus had risen 20.1 percent.
Authorities have stepped up efforts to bolster growth, with the central bank last month reducing interest rates for the fifth time since November last year.
They also lowered the yuan’s central rate against the US dollar by nearly 5 percent in a single week, which should make Chinese exports cheaper on world markets.
“The narrowed drop in exports is a positive signal that government support measures to exporters have been working,” Yingda Securities Co (英大證券) chief strategist Li Daxiao (李大霄) told reporters. “But the weak import figure showed that the economy is still on the weak side and the government has to step up its stabilizing efforts to maintain the 7 percent growth target.”
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