China's trade shrank in December but decline slowed

BEIJING -- China's trade shrank in December but the decline was smaller than November's in a positive sign for lacklustre economic growth.

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Exports declined 1.4 per cent from a year earlier to $224.1 billion, an improvement over the previous month's 6.8 per cent contraction, customs data showed Wednesday. Imports were down 7.6 per cent at $164 billion, a smaller loss than November's 8.7 per cent fall.

China's trade data reflect weak global demand and a decline in domestic economic growth, but economists say retail spending and manufacturing might be improving.

Economic growth fell to a six-year low of 6.9 per cent in the quarter ending in September. Full year growth is expected to come in at or just below 7 per cent.

"China's improved trade data in December will probably act to reassure global investors unnerved by the recent volatility in the country's financial and foreign-exchange markets," said Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit in a report. "The data is in line with other indicators that suggest China's economy is stabilizing on the back of sustained stimulus measures."

In December, the country's global trade surplus widened by 21 per cent to $60.1 billion.

For the full year, exports were off 2.8 per cent at $2.3 trillion and imports were down 14.1 per cent at $1.7 trillion. The global trade surplus was $594 billion.

The country's trade surplus in December with the European Union, its biggest trading partner, swelled 36.8 per cent to $15.6 billion. The surplus with the United States contracted 6 per cent to $19.4 billion.


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