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Morning business round-up: China trade slowdown

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

Focus switched from the eurozone to the global economy as it emerged that China's export and import growth slowed in April.

This raised fears about a sharp slowdown in its economy and triggered calls for monetary policy easing.

Exports rose by 4.9% in April from a year earlier, down from the 8.9% annual growth seen in the previous month, a sign that global demand may be slowing.

Meanwhile, imports rose just 0.3% on the year, down from 5.3% in March, indicating a fall in domestic demand.

China has been trying to boost domestic consumption to rebalance its growth.

Elsewhere in Asia Japanese electronics maker Sony reported a record annual loss as natural disasters last year and a strong yen hurt its earnings.

The firm reported a net loss of 456.7bn yen ($5.7bn; £3.5bn) for the year to the end of March, compared with a 259.6bn yen loss last year.

The company said falling demand from developed markets also affected its earnings.

However, it forecast a profit of 30bn yen for the current financial year.

In Spain more worrying news emerged as the country's central bank confirmed that Spanish lender Bankia is to be partly nationalised.

Bankia, which holds 32bn euros in distressed property assets and whose boss has resigned, will have a 4.47bn-euro loan by the Spanish bailout fund converted into shares.

The state fund will emerge with a 45% stake in the bank.

Spanish oil company Repsol released results showing the costs of the nationalisation of its majority stake in YPF by Argentina.

Including YPF, Repsol's first quarter net profit was 792m euros ($1.026bn; £637m), up 3.5% from a year earlier.

Excluding YPF, its net profit was only 643m euros, although that was up 12.4% from comparable figures last year.

Rising oil prices and growth in its liquefied natural gas business boosted profits.

In the UK there was some tentative good news as the Office for National Statistics reported a 0.9% rise in manufacturing output in March.

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The rise was stronger-than-expected, and followed a fall of 1.1% in February.

Sectors including chemicals, transport equipment, computer and electronics were behind the recovery according to the ONS.

But the wider measure of industrial production fell 0.3%, due to a drop in oil and gas production.

In the latest Business Daily podcast Ed Butler and Lesley Curwen play Snakes and Ladders to explore whether debt-ridden European nations should stick to austerity or abandon it in favour of economic stimulus measures. The austerity question is also debated by the BBC's economics editor Stephanie Flanders and diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.

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