Chinese exports plummet
BEIJING – China’s exports contracted sharply in the first two months of the year, and imports slowed, as the health crisis triggered by the coronavirus outbreak caused massive disruptions to business operations, global supply chains and economic activity.
The gloomy trade report is likely to reinforce fears that China’s economic growth halved in the first quarter to the weakest since 1990 as the epidemic and strict government containment measures crippled factory production and led to a sharp slump in demand.
Overseas shipments fell 17.2 per cent in January-February from the same period a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, marking the steepest fall since February 2019.
That compared with a 14 per cent drop tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts and a 7.9 per cent gain in December.
Imports sank 4 per cent from a year earlier, but were better than market expectations of a 15 per cent drop. They had jumped 16.5 per cent in December, buoyed in part by a preliminary Sino-U.S. trade deal.
China ran a trade deficit of $7.09 billion for the period, reversing an expected $24.6 billion surplus in the poll.
Factory activity contracted at the fastest pace ever in February, even worse than during the global financial crisis, an official manufacturing gauge showed last weekend, with a sharp slump in new orders. A private survey highlighted similarly dire conditions.
The epidemic has killed over 3 000 and infected more than 80 000 in China. Though the number of new infections in China is falling, and local governments are slowly relaxing emergency measures, analysts say many businesses are taking longer to reopen than expected, and may not return to normal production till April.
Those delays threaten an even longer and costlier spillover into the economies of China’s major trading partners, many of which rely heavily on Chinese-made parts and components.
China’s trade surplus with the United States for the first two months of the year stood at $25.37 billion, Reuters calculation based on Chinese customs data showed, much narrower than a surplus of $42.16 billion in the same period last year. (Reuters)