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China’s trade growth slows as commodities demand cools

Beijing: China’s import growth slowed faster than expected in April, as inbound shipments of commodities such as iron ore and copper weakened, while export growth more than halved, in line with a general cooling in demand for electronic gadgets.

China’s April imports rose 11.9 per cent, cooling from March’s 20.3 per cent rise, official data showed on Monday, and missing analysts’ expectations for an 18 per cent rise.

Exports rose 8.0 per cent from a year earlier, slowing from a 16.4 per cent rise in the previous month and short of expectations of 10.4 per cent.

While the data shows trade remained robust at the beginning of the second quarter, analysts say the spurt in China’s economic growth seen in the first three months of the year may be as good as it gets as policymakers seek to tighten speculative investment, especially in the property sector.

“Looking ahead, we expect export growth to hold up well given the relatively bright outlook for the global economy this year,” Capital Economics China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said in a note.

“Growth in inbound shipments will continue to face headwinds, however.

In particular, policy tightening will further weigh on domestic demand in coming quarters.”

April’s numbers left the country with a trade surplus of $38.05 billion, which compared with forecasts for $35.50 billion, and above $23.93 billion in March.

The April trade figures are preliminary, with revised data due on May 23.

China’s imports of crude oil, iron ore and copper all fell by volume compared with March, with the data in line with a recent survey of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector showing April expansion was the slowest in six months.

Despite the slowdown, imports year-to-date are still up 20.8 per cent by value, compared with 8.1 per cent growth for exports over the first four months, though analysts say imports could slow further this year.

While China’s economy grew faster than expected in the first quarter, policymakers have moved to reduce financial risks in the economy and stamp out speculative activity in the property market.

Commodity imports have also been hit by falling prices, with iron ore and steel hitting multi-month lows on China’s future markets in April amid concern over rising inventories.

China’s producer price inflation slowed in March for the first time in seven months, with price gains expected to continue to cool.

Exports of electronics and machinery products increased 2 per cent year-on-year in April, customs data showed, slowing from 12.3 per cent growth in March.

China’s surplus with the United States widened in April, meaning pressure from the US for action on the trade imbalance is not likely to go away anytime soon. — Reuters

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