China's March exports shrink 15 percent year-on-year in shock fall

Mon Apr 13, 2015 5:38am EDT
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By Koh Gui Qing and Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's export sales contracted 15 percent in March, a shock outcome that deepens concern about sputtering Chinese economic growth.

The tumble in exports - the worst in about a year - compared with expectations for a 12 percent rise and could heighten worries about how a rising yuan CNY=CFXS has hurt demand for Chinese goods and services abroad, analysts said.

The yuan's strength was one factor in March's 19.1 percent on-year decline in exports to the European Union and 24.8 percent drop to Japan.

In a sign that domestic demand was also tepid, imports into the world's second-biggest economy shrank 12.7 percent last month from a year ago, the General Administration of Customs said on Monday. By volume, coal imports plunged more than 40 percent in January-March.

The March fall in imports was in line with forecasts, unlike the one for exports.

"It's a very bad number that was much worse than expectations," Louis Kuijs, an economist at RBS in Hong Kong, said about the export data.

"It leads to warning flags both on global demand and China's competitiveness."

Buffeted by lukewarm foreign and domestic demand, China's trade sector has wobbled in the past year on the back of the country's cooling economy, unsettling policymakers.   Continued...

Piles of steel pipes to be exported are seen in front of cranes at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province March 7, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files