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China feels global slowdown pinch; March exports dip 6.6% to $170 bn

China's exports slumped 6.6 per cent year-on-year to $170.11 billion in March, raising fresh concerns over the health of the trade sector and strength of the country's slowing down economy.

Imports were down 11.3 per cent to $162.41 billion in March 2014 and total foreign trade volume declined 9 per cent to $332.52 billion during the period, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said.

The trade balance returned to a surplus of $7.71 billion in March after a deficit of $22.98 billion in the previous month, it said.
GAC spokesman Zheng Yuesheng played down any concerns about exports, attributing the drop to a high base figure in the corresponding period last year.

Exports in March last year were significantly inflated by rampant over-invoicing to disguise capital flows, sending exports up by more than 20 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013, previous figures showed, state run Xinhua news agency reported.Zheng said the declining trend will be temporary and he is optimistic about trade performance in the second quarter.
‘China's foreign trade will recover in May,’ he said.

Thursday's figures also showed that China's total foreign trade volume declined by one per cent year-on-year to $965.88 billion in the first three months.Exports decreased 3.4 per cent year-on-year, while imports went up 1.6 per cent during the period, with the trade surplus standing at $16.74 billion in the three-month period.

China set a trade growth target of 7.5 per cent this year, lower than the 8 per cent aimed for 2013 and actual expansion of 7.6 per cent.
AP adds: In a sign of concern about job losses, the Chinese leadership launched a mini-stimulus last month based on higher spending on construction of railways, low-cost housing and other projects.In a speech on Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang said the foundation for growth is ‘not strong’ and the economy still faces ‘downward pressure.’ But he ruled out additional short-term stimulus.

‘We will not adopt stimulus for short-term and temporary economic fluctuations, but pay more attention to the healthy development of long-term efforts to achieve sustainable and healthy development,’ the premier said at a conference in the southern city of Sanya, according to a transcript released by the government.

‘While the export data will add to worries among policymakers and in the market about growth slowing down precariously or China losing competitiveness, we would caution against such interpretations,’ said RBS economist Louis Kuijs in a report.
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