Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

China Data on Trade Rise, but Meaning Is Debatable

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

China Data on Trade Rise, but Meaning Is Debatable

Article excerpt

Exports rose 14.7 percent in April from a year earlier, while imports increased 16.8 percent, far from strong enough to suggest that foreign demand could pull China out of what seems to be a deepening malaise.

Trade figures for April released by the Chinese government on Wednesday were slightly better than economists had expected, but still indicated that demand was fairly weak in foreign markets and in China itself.

Exports and imports both increased last month compared with the same period a year earlier, but the figures were harder than usual to interpret because April of last year was so weak. Imports and exports all but stopped growing in April of last year as a wide range of industries, perceiving a short, sharp domestic economic slowdown that would last until early autumn, stopped buying industrial commodities, even as foreign buyers cut orders as well.

Compared with that weak base, China's trade figures for last month looked somewhat better. Exports rose 14.7 percent from a year earlier, while imports increased 16.8 percent.

But the trade figures were far from strong enough to suggest that foreign demand could pull China out of what seems to be a deepening economic malaise. Although official figures still show the economy steaming along at a growth rate of nearly 8 percent, a range of purchasing manager surveys last month showed growing worry among business executives across China.

"China is in a very difficult position now," as U.S. and European consumers seem wary of further increases in the coming months in their purchases of Chinese goods, said Diana Choyleva, an economist in the Hong Kong office of Lombard Street Research, an economic analysis firm.

The discouraging shift in sentiment, after a fairly weak economic performance in March as well, comes despite enormous lending through the autumn, winter and early spring. …

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