China’s exports fell 25.4 percent in dollar terms from a year earlier in February, following a drop of 11.2 percent in January, while the country’s imports plunged 13.8 percent — a larger-than-expected decline that was made worse by the business shutdown during the Lunar New Year holiday. Separately, yuan-denominated data showed that exports fell 20.6 percent in February and imports dropped 8.0 percent from a year ago.
According to Reuters, the export drop was the biggest since May 2009. The dismal trade data would further deepen concerns about the health of the world’s second-largest economy, where slowing economic growth, ballooning debt, drop in forex reserves and increase in capital outflows are already weighing on investor sentiment. Earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service warned that it may lower the country’s debt rating, underscoring global concerns over China’s stuttering economy.
“Exports were very strong last year in February because the Lunar New Year started so late and much of the usual disruption from the holiday was pushed into March. So the implication is that we'll probably see a significant reversal and a stronger number next month,” Julian Evans-Prichard, China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, told Reuters.
In February 2015, exports jumped over 48 percent year-on-year in dollar terms, while in March, exports declined 15 percent over the year, providing a more favorable baseline for March 2016 trade data.
China’s trade surplus came in at $32.59 billion in February, against analysts’ expectations of a $50.15 billion, and below $63.29 billion in January. The trade surplus with the United States, China’s biggest trading partner, narrowed by one-quarter from a year earlier to $14.5 billion as sale of Chinese goods in the U.S. dropped 15 percent.
“The exports data are very, very poor,” Castor Pang, head of research with Core-Pacific Yamaichi in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg. “The huge decline doesn’t auger well for the stock market.”
On Tuesday, the Shanghai Composite index was last down 1.6 percent, easing off its morning lows, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite index was trading down 0.73 percent.