China Jan exports, imports shrink much faster than expected
BEIJING : China's January trade performance was worse than expected as tepid demand persisted both at home and abroad, raising expectations of further Government measures to arrest the slowdown and to quell market jitters.
January exports fell 11.2 per cent from a year earlier - the seventh straight month of decline, while imports tumbled 18.8 per cent - the 15th month of decline, both far worse than expected, data released by the General Administration of Customs. Exports declined even though China has allowed the yuan to weaken nearly 6 per cent against the US dollar since last August, underlining the extent to which global demand has weakened.
China posted a record trade surplus of $63.3 billion in January - partly due to soft demand and falling commodities prices, versus $60.09 billion in December.
Premier Li Keqiang has said Beijing will not promote exports through currency depreciation, although some policy advisers have been calling for sharper yuan falls.
China's exports to the United States, the country's biggest market, fell 9.9 per cent in dollar terms in January from a year earlier, while exports to the European Union - the second biggest market, fell 12 per cent, the customs data showed.
The customs office said it expected downward pressure on China's exports will ease, starting in the second quarter of this year.
A source at the Commerce Ministry also said the Government would not set an annual target for foreign trade this year.
The customs data showed Hong Kong's exports to mainland China fell 2.6 per cent year-on-year in dollar terms while its imports from the mainland jumped 108.1 per cent. For 2015, China's total trade tumbled 8 per cent from 2014, well below the Government's target of 6 per cent growth and the worst performance since the global financial crisis.
Trends in January and February can also be distorted by the long Lunar New Year holidays, with business slowing down weeks ahead of time and many firms scaling back operations or closing.
China's Commerce Ministry has warned that the country's external trade is facing relatively severe pressure in 2016, and few analysts expect a sudden improvement in global demand.
China is expected to target economic growth in a range of 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent this year, sources have said, setting a range for the first time because policymakers are uncertain on the economy's prospects. The world's second-largest economy grew an annual 6.9 percent in 2015, the poorest showing in a quarter of a century.