Chinese trade figures raise the alarm for global economy

Friday, February 10, 2012
By Paul Martin

China’s import decline sharper than expected, suggesting that even with holiday factored in, world’s second-largest economy is slowing markedly
Friday 10 February

China’s trade has suffered its biggest decline in January since the 2008 financial crisis – a new sign of weak global demand and a slowing domestic economy.

Exports fell 0.5% from a year earlier to $149.9bn (£94bn), while imports were down 15% at $122.7bn, customs data showed on Friday. China’s politically sensitive global trade surplus tripled compared with a year earlier to $27.3bn.

Analysts expected January trade to fall due to the Lunar New Year holiday, the country’s most important holiday. Chinese exporters rushed out orders in December and then shut down for two weeks or more in January.

But the import decline was sharper than expected, suggesting that even with the holiday factored in, the world’s second-largest economy is slowing markedly. China is a major buyer of iron ore, oil and other commodities and industrial components, meaning any downturn could hurt suppliers such as Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

Concerns about the state of the global economy are intensifying – this week the Baltic Dry Index, a proxy for for the strength of world trade, fell to a 25-year-low.

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