China’s imports and exports fell in January, the first declines in more than two years, raising fresh concerns about deteriorating economic conditions both at home and abroad.
Official data published Friday showed that exports fell 0.5 percent from a year earlier while imports retreated 15.3 percent, resulting in China’s politically contentious global trade surplus hitting a six-month high of $27.3 billion, according to the Associated Press.
Analysts expected January trade to drop due to factories shutting down during China’s important Lunar New Year holiday. However, the sharper-than-expected plunge in imports reflects a weakening property sector and a pulling back of infrastructure building, The Los Angeles Times reported, suggesting that the nation’s economy is slowing down markedly.
“A fall of over 15% [in imports] in January cannot be entirely explained by the lunar calendar, and adds weight to the view that economic output is slower than headline indicators might suggest,” said Alistair Thornton of IHS Global Insight in Beijing.
“Such a dramatically low import number reflects extremely weak domestic demand, as investment slumps and drags on economic activity.”
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China’s export sector has been crucial to its economic growth over recent years, with international firms taking advantage of the country’s low-cost manufacturing.
However, the pace of growth of shipments has slowed in the past few months due to high unemployment in the US and the debt crisis in the euro zone, which have undermined consumer confidence and dented demands for Chinese goods in two of the country’s biggest international markets, according to the BBC.
Bilateral trade between China and the EU fell more than 7 percent in China, today’s figures showed.
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