Chinese trade data fuels slowdown fears

Chinese trade data fuels slowdown fears

SHANGHAI - The Associated Press
Chinese trade data fuels slowdown fears

Employees unload containers from a cargo ship at Qingdao port in Shandong province April 10. China recorded a $18.4 billion trade surplus last month. REUTERS photo

China’s trade surplus widened in April as imports barely budged, sharpening fears that the world’s second-biggest economy is not doing enough to stimulate domestic demand and counter a slowdown.

Imports edged up 0.3 percent to $144.8 billion in April while exports rose 4.9 percent to $163.3 billion, leaving a surplus of $18.4 billion, according to customs data released Thursday.

That compared with a surplus of $5.35 billion in March and a deficit of $31.5 billion in February. China often has a large trade deficit early in the year as factories restock after their long lunar new year holiday break.

The weak import numbers could be a sign Chinese policymakers are failing to boost demand by businesses and consumers for imported goods and raises concerns about whether China will be able to bounce back from slowing growth.

In March, imports rose 5.3 percent while exports climbed nearly 9 percent. The figures for April, especially weakening exports to the 27-nation European Union, China’s biggest trading partner, were a disappointment, economists say.

Property sector
A downturn in China’s property sector has stalled construction, sharply reducing demand. Slowing imports also reflect falling prices, as well as volumes, for key commodities, such as iron ore and crude oil.

Demand in China has weakened as the government sought to cool inflation and steer the growth of the world’s second-largest economy to a more sustainable level after 2010’s explosive double-digit expansion. Growth eased to 8.1 percent in the first quarter of this year after Beijing tightened lending and investment curbs.