China’s exports drop by 8.8% in August as trade slump persists

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Cargo ships dock at the Longtan Container Terminal of Nanjing Port to load and unload containers in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, Sept 6, 2023.

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BEIJING — China reported Thursday another monthly decline in imports and exports, albeit less steep than expected.

Exports in U.S. dollar terms fell by 8.8% in August from a year ago. That’s better than the 9.2% drop forecast by a Reuters poll.

Imports in U.S. dollar terms fell by 7.3% in August from a year ago, better than the 9% decline forecast by Reuters.

Imports have now fallen every month in 2023 from the year-ago period. Exports have fallen year-on-year for every month since April as global demand for Chinese goods wanes.

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China’s exports to the U.S. in dollar terms fell by 9.5% in August from a year ago, better than a drop of more than 20% in each of the prior two months, according to CNBC calculations of official data accessed through Wind Information.

China’s imports from the U.S. fell by 7.9% in August from a year ago, an improvement from a double-digit decline in July, the data showed.

The U.S. is China’s largest trading partner on a single-country basis. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is China’s largest trading partner on a regional basis.

China’s exports to Southeast Asia fell by 13.3%, while imports dropped by 6.1% in August from a year ago, the data showed. Both figures marked an improvement from July.

“In general, the figures still suggest the headwinds remain despite some marginal improvement,” Hao Zhou, chief economist at Guotai Junan International, said in a note.

“Looking ahead, whether China’s trade growth has already hit the bottom will hinge on several factors,” he said, pointing to property, rising oil prices and Chinese yuan weakness relative to the U.S. dollar.

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China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil.

The country’s imports of the commodity by volume in the first eight months of the year grew by 14.7% from a year ago, faster than the 12.4% pace as of July, customs data showed.

China’s economic rebound from the pandemic has slowed in the last few months, dragged down by a property market slump and lackluster consumer spending.

Autos exports remained a bright spot, but the pace of growth slowed in August.

Sector exports rose by 69% during the first eight months of the year from the same period in 2022, customs data showed. That’s down from the 74.1% increase recorded for the first seven months of the year.

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