Chinese exports slumped 3.3 percent in January from a year earlier while imports tumbled 19.9 percent, highlighting deepening weakness in the economy, Reuters reported Monday.
The sharply lower imports, particularly of coal, oil and commodities, produced a record monthly trade surplus of US$60 billion.
Analysts had expected exports to gain 6.3 percent and the slowdown in imports to ease to 3 percent after a better than expected showing in December.
They had also forecast a trade surplus of US$48.9 billion.
The slide in imports is the sharpest since May 2009 when Chinese factories were still slashing inventories in reaction to the global financial crisis.
Exports have not produced a negative annual reading since March 2014.
Investors had hoped that domestic stimulus spending plans announced recently, combined with moves to ease monetary policy, including a reduction in banks’ reserve requirement ratios on Wednesday, would restore confidence and boost demand in China’s struggling manufacturing sector.
However, many analysts believe measures taken so far to boost yuan liquidity are insufficient to do much more than offset surging capital outflows.
Advocates of more aggressive action will seize on the weak January trade data to support their case, the report said.
Chinese imports have fallen every month since October, reflecting weak domestic demand.
The scale of January’s drop was mostly due to an across-the-board fall in import volumes of major commodities.
Imports from Australia and the Russian Federation, both major fuel and commodity suppliers, slid by 35.3 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively.
Chinese officials had predicted that monetary easing measures in Europe would boost demand for Chinese goods.
Analysts polled by Reuters had also been optimistic that signs of economic strengthening in the United States would support exports.
However, the data showed that while exports to the US rose 4.8 percent year on year to US$35 billion, exports to the European Union slid 4.6 percent to US$33 billion in the same period.
Exports to Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan were also down, with exports to Japan slumping over 20 percent.
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