China's exports, trade surplus fall in August

SHANGHAI -- China's exports languished in August, contracting 23 percent, increasing the onus on Beijing's massive stimulus spending to drive an economic recovery.

Customs data released Friday show August's exports were worth $103.7 billion compared with $134.9 billion in the same month a year earlier. Imports fell 17 percent to $88 billion, while the overall trade surplus plunged 45 percent from a year earlier to $15.7 billion, but rose from the month before, the report said.

The figures were worse than most economists' forecasts.

China's trade has been battered by the global downturn but Beijing's 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus program has helped to insulate the world's third-largest economy by fueling industrial demand through heavy spending on building new highways and other public works.

Economic growth accelerated to 7.9 percent over a year earlier in the latest quarter, up from 6.1 percent the previous quarter, though is still far short of the 10 percent-plus growth rates of recent years. The government aims for 8 percent economic growth this year.

Although surveys show purchasing orders are beginning to rebound, trade has stabilized at a relatively low level, says JP Morgan chairwoman for China equities, Jing Ulrich.

"As the economies of China's major trading partners gradually strengthen, the export slump should gradually ease," she said in a report Friday.

In January-August, China's total trade with the EU fell nearly 21 percent, while its total trade with the U.S. dropped 16.4 percent and its trade with Japan slipped 22 percent, the government said.

Exports of almost all major industrial products saw double-digit declines, according to the customs data.

China's imports have also remained anemic, even more so now that they are no longer inflated by the massive stockpiling of commodities seen earlier this year.

Container throughput in August was lackluster at China's biggest ports - down 11 percent from a year earlier in Shenzhen, and down 15 percent in Shanghai, Ulrich said.


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