China's August exports fall 5.5%, imports sink 13.8%

Reuters BEIJING | Updated on January 22, 2018

Workers weld steel rebars at a construction site in Guangzhou, capital of China's southern Guangdong province May 12, 2006. China imported 108.19 million tonnes of iron ore in the first four months of 2006, up 23.5 percent from a year earlier, official Customs figures showed on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer

Slump in imports raises concerns over sharper slowdown

China's August exports fell less than expected but a steeper slide in imports pointed to continuing economic weakness, adding to concerns over the health of the world's second-largest economy that have been rattling global markets.

Exports dropped 5.5 per cent from a year earlier, slightly less than a 6.0 per cent decline forecast in a Reuters poll, and improving from an 8.3 per cent drop in July.

Imports shrank for a 10th consecutive month, falling 13.8 per cent, far more than the poll's expected 8.2 per cent, after an 8.1 per cent decline in July, reflecting both lower global commodity prices and persistently sluggish demand at home.

That left the country with a trade surplus of $60.24 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday, far higher than forecasts for $48.20 billion.

"I'm not optimistic about the prospect of exports and it's unlikely China can achieve the export target this year," said Nie Wen, analyst at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai. "There will be at least three more reserve requirement rate cuts this year to counteract capital outflows."

Global investors will be combing China's August data over the coming weeks to see if the economy is at risk of a hard landing.

Though most economists believe a gradual and prolonged slowdown is more likely, a stock market crash and the unexpected devaluation of the yuan currency in August have heightened concerns about stability and policymaking in China.

On August 11, the People's Bank of China jolted markets by devaluing the yuan by nearly 2 per cent. Economists say the devaluation may give a mild boost to Chinese exports eventually, but most did not expect it to have any impact on the August data.

China's top economic planning agency said on Monday that exports from some sectors had seen improvement in August.

The National Development and Reform Commission also said the economy will grow steadily and meet the government's annual 7 per cent growth target, as the effects of supportive policies, including local government debt swaps, rate cuts and real estate market stimulus, feed in over the next few months.

China's top financial officials told the meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies late last week that the yuan is not on course for long-term devaluation. They have described the August move as a free-market reform.

In recent years, the stronger yuan has hurt China's exports while helping make imports more affordable for Chinese firms and consumers.

However, some economists believe current economic growth rates are already much weaker than official data suggest, and many traders believe there is political pressure to allow a deeper depreciation in coming months as the economy slows.

Published on September 08, 2015

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