Business

Chinese exports and imports fall sharply in March

China container terminal in Qingdao Image copyright AFP
Image caption China's latest trade data adds to recent concerns of a slowdown

China's exports and imports fell sharply in March, adding to recent indicators pointing to a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

The country's exports fell by 6.6% in March when compared with the previous year.

Imports dropped by 11.3% in the same month, when compared with the same time last year.

This is the second straight month of falling exports for China. In February, exports dropped by 18.1%.

It is the first time since 2009 that exports have fallen for two months in a row.

Slower growth?

The export decline in February was mainly attributed to weaker demand due to the Lunar New Year holiday period, which led to closures of many businesses and factories.

Analysts had been expecting to see an increase in both import and exports for the month of March.

The March trade figures will add to recent concern about the state of the Chinese economy, which has shown signs of weakness amid poor data from the manufacturing and retail sectors.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Recent data indicated weak growth in China's manufacturing sector

The latest trade figures come days after the World Bank trimmed its growth forecast for China to 7.6% for this year from its earlier forecast of 7.7%.

The latest trade data leaves China with a trade surplus of $7.7bn (£4.6bn) in March, a turnaround from a deficit of $23bn in February.

"Looking ahead, improving conditions in developed economies should continue to support Chinese exports," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

"In contrast, we expect import growth to remain relatively weak as slowing investment spending is likely to weigh on imports of commodities and capital goods. As a result, China's trade surplus is likely to rebound further over the coming year."

China last week unveiled a mini-stimulus package to boost growth, which included more spending on rail infrastructure and tax breaks for small businesses.

The Chinese government is aiming for total trade to grow 7.5% this year. Last year trade grew by 7.6%, below the official target of 8%.