Chinese exports, imports dropped in April in sign of weakness

Beijing, May 8

China’s exports slumped nearly two per cent in April compared to same month last year, as imports fell almost 11 per cent, officials said today, the latest sign of weakness in the world’s second largest economy.

The key export sector has shown year-on-year declines in dollar terms for nine of the last 10 months as country’s economic growth has fallen to its slowest level in a quarter-century.

Today’s figures from state statistics bureau suggest an unexpected March export increase may have been a blip, and that meeting ambitious economic growth targets will be a challenge.

China exported about $173 billion worth of goods in April, the bureau said, while importing products worth $127 billion. As a result, country’s trade surplus rose to about $46 billion.

The bureau earlier gave figures in terms of China’s yuan currency, which showed a modest rise in exports in April. The dollar figure diverged as yuan has depreciated over the last year.

Beijing is attempting a difficult transition away from reliance on cheap exports and infrastructure investment towards hi-tech industry and consumer spending as its three-decade long growth model shows signs of wearing out.

But it is still targeting growth of 6.5 to seven per cent this year, a figure some analysts say can only be reached through an unsustainable rise in bank lending.

The trade data comes after a private survey indicated this week that Chinese factory activity weakened further in April.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index by Caixin, which tracks activity in the country’s factories and workshops, fell for the 14th consecutive month.