China’s trade tumbles in January

HONG KONG – China’s trade tumbled in January, in a possible fresh sign of the weakness confronting the world’s No. 2 economy.

Exports fell 11.2 per cent to $177.5 billion, a sharp deterioration from the 1.4 per cent decline reported for December, according to customs data released Monday.

Imports shrank by 18.8 per cent to $114.2 billion, a faster fall than the previous month’s 7.6 per cent contraction, leaving a trade surplus of $63.3 billion.

The export figure reflected weaker demand for shipments of manufactured goods as the global recovery continues to stumble.

Economists, however, were reserving final analysis until figures for February are out because the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday distorts China’s economic data at the beginning of the year.

Companies in China shut down for the weeklong holiday, which falls at different times in January or February. In the run-up to the holiday, which this year occurred last week, factories stock up on raw materials and rush to fill orders.

“The lower-than-expected exports in January was likely caused by some frontloading of shipments into December,” ANZ Bank economists Liu Li-gang and Louis Lam wrote in a report. They said that December’s export figures were probably better than expected for the same reason.

China’s economy posted its slowest growth in a quarter century last year, expanding 6.9 per cent. Officials expect growth this year of between 6.5 and 7 per cent.

Growth is slowing as the country’s communist leaders try to wean the economy off export-led manufacturing and instead focus on more self-sustaining domestic consumption and services.


General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese):