January 14, 2019 / 3:47 AM / 9 months ago

China December exports unexpectedly drop 4.4 percent, imports fall 7.6 percent

Automated guided vehicles (AGV) transport containers at an automated container terminal in Qingdao port, Shandong province, China January 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s December exports unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop in two years, official data showed on Monday, pointing to further weakening in the world’s second-largest economy.

For the month, imports also unexpectedly contracted, falling 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since July 2016.

That left the country with a trade surplus of $57.06 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said, compared with analysts’ expectations for a surplus of $51.53 billion, up from $44.71 billion in November.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected December shipments from the world’s largest exporter to have risen 3.0 percent, slowing from 5.4 percent in November.

Import growth had been expected to pick up slightly to 5.0 percent, after cooling to 3.0 percent in the previous month.

The world’s largest trading nation got off to a strong start in 2018, but pressure on the economy started to build later in the year as a trade dispute with the United States escalated and global demand began to cool.

U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods have put additional strains on China’s already cooling economy, prompting policymakers in Beijing to announce a series of growth-boosting measures to avert the risk of a sharper slowdown.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Kim Coghill

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