China’s imports and exports shrank again in November but there were signs a decline in domestic demand might be turning around.
Customs data showed exports contracted by 6.8 per cent, accelerating from October’s 3.6 per cent.
Imports declined 8.7 per cent, an improvement over the previous month’s 16 per cent fall.
A fall in global commodity prices has dragged down China’s import figures but the volume of some goods has risen. In November, the volume of crude oil imports rose 8.7 per cent over the previous year.
China is a key driver of global growth and its shipments of finished goods, along with its demand for the resources to manufacture them, affect nations across the world.
Overseas shipments have been declining every month this year except for February, when the figures were skewed by the Chinese New Year.
Imports tumbled 8.7 per cent to $US143.1 billion — the 13th straight month of declines, but narrowing significantly from an 18.8 per cent slump in October.
The figure was better than the 11.9 per cent drop estimated in the Bloomberg survey.
Analysts attributed the slower fall to Beijing’s monetary easing policies and the slump in global commodity prices late last year, which lowered the basis for comparison.
“Although disappointing exports data suggest that foreign demand remains subdued, a recovery in imports hints at a policy-driven pick-up in domestic demand,” wrote Julian Evans-Pritchard with research firm Capital Economics in a note.
The government has turned to monetary loosening to stimulate growth, cutting interest rates six times since November last year.
ANZ economists expected import figures to continue to strengthen next year. “Looking ahead, the headline growth rate of imports could start to improve in 2016 as the price effect diminishes,” they said in a report.
Concerns have been mounting among investors worldwide over China’s economy, which expanded 6.9 per cent in the July-September period according to official figures — its slowest rate since the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
But those statistics are widely doubted and many analysts believe the real rate of growth could be several percentage points lower.
Annual growth weakened to 7.3 per cent last year, the slowest pace since 1990, as traditional growth drivers such as exports and investment increasingly run out of steam.
Analysts and Chinese politicians say the country needs to rebalance away from reliance on exports and fixed asset investment towards a consumer-driven economy.
But state intervention struggled to halt a stock market rout this summer, increasing doubts over policymakers’ ability to transition to a more market-based economy.
The trade surplus stood at $US54.1 billion in November, down from $US61.6 billion recorded in October, according to official figures.