Declining exports slowed manufacturing in China during April, underscoring an emerging weakness in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The government’s purchasing managers' index (PMI) slipped to 50.6 in April from March’s 50.9, which was an 11-month high. A reading above 50 signals growth, and a reading below 50 means that manufacturing activity shrank.

"Overall, my general feel is that China is growing but slower than people expected, say, a month ago," Alvin Pontoh, economist at TDSecurities in Singapore, told Reuters.

"But I don't think this is reason for alarm ... this is probably what the new administration is looking for. Structurally, China cannot grow at 9 or 10 percent anymore, so over the next few years, you'd reasonably expect growth to edge lower to, say, 7 percent or so.”