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China’s Imports and Exports Declined Sharply in March

Well-known Chinese news site NetEase (NASDAQ: NTES) recently reported that, according to Chinese customs data, China’s imports and exports both experienced sharp declines in March, far below market expectations. Export shipments fell 7.5 percent year-over-year, while imports also fell 1.9 percent year-over-year. Chinese policymakers are facing challenges as they try to shore up a fragile economic recovery.

Exports suffered their biggest drop since last August, well above the 2.3 percent decline forecasted by economists. Exports for the period January through February increased by 7.1 percent year-over-year.

Over the past year, China’s exporters experienced many difficulties due to weak overseas demand and a tightening global monetary environment. At this point, with the U.S. Federal Reserve and other developed countries showing no urgency regarding the need for interest rate cuts, Chinese manufacturers may continue to face challenges as they try to boost international sales. Analysts warned that Western concerns about overcapacity in certain Chinese industries [and the impact of such overcapacity on Western markets] could bring more trade barriers to China’s manufacturing sector.

China’s imports for March fell 1.9 percent year-over-year, compared with a growth of 3.5 percent in the previous two months, indicating weakness in domestic demand. Analysts do not believe China’s economy will fully recover any time soon, mainly because the crisis in the Chinese real estate industry has been going on for quite some time.

Global ratings agency Fitch recently downgraded China’s sovereign credit rating outlook to negative, citing risks to public finances as the country’s economy faces growing uncertainty during a shift to a new growth model. Structural flaws in China’s economy have reduced the effectiveness of its central bank’s monetary policy tools.

Source: NetEase, April 12, 2024