December 10, 2011 / 4:12 AM / in 6 years

China export and import growth slows, surplus narrows

BEIJING (Reuters) - Growth in Chinese exports and imports slowed in November, further evidence of the faltering demand abroad and at home that is pushing Beijing towards a more explicit pro-growth policy.

Customs data on Saturday showed exports expanded 13.8 percent year on year in November, the lowest in nine months, but it was the most sluggish performance since November 2009 when the traditionally volatile month of February is stripped out.

Imports increased 22.1 percent in the year to November, weaker than a rise of 28.7 percent in October, but stronger than September's 20.9 percent.

Economists in the benchmark Reuters poll forecast annual export growth of 11 percent in November and a 19 percent rise in import, with a trade surplus of $14.3 billion.

The surplus turned out to be $14.5 billion, narrowing from October's $17.0 billion and the same level as in September.

The trade data reinforced a slowing trend in the world's No. 2 economy, after key indicators on Friday showed a serious risk of a sharp industrial slowdown -- accompanied by an easing of inflationary pressure -- that is prompting Beijing to provide more support for growth and jobs.

The Communist Party's top leaders said in a statement hours after the data deluge on Friday that they would ensure stable and reasonably fast economic growth in 2012, fine-tuning policy in tandum with changes in the global economy.

The central bank surprised the market on November 30 with an earlier-than-expected cut in banks' required reserves, the first such move in three years, signaling a policy shift, although in words, China has so far kept its official line of sticking with a "prudent" monetary policy.

Reporting by Langi Chiang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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