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June exports down 21.4%
Published on: 2009-07-13
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BEIJING (AP) — China's exports and imports fell again in June but declines were less severe than in May, data showed Friday, adding to signs the world's third-largest economy is recovering from its slump.

Exports fell 21.4 percent in June from a year earlier, the government's Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Chinese customs agency. That was an improvement over May's record 26.4 percent decline.

China's trade collapsed in late 2008 as the global consumer demand plunged, wiping out millions of factory jobs. Analysts say a full-fledged recovery will have to wait until China's key U.S. and European export markets rebound.

"Overseas demand still hasn't recovered yet," said Hu Xiaoyue, an economist at Shanghai Securities. "The role of exports in economic growth will continue to weaken."

Beijing is trying to shield the economy from the downturn by boosting domestic consumption with a 4 trillion yuan ($586 million) package of spending on public works construction and other initiatives.

The government is due to report quarterly economic growth next week and analysts are forecasting an expansion of about 7 percent from a year earlier. That would be an improvement over first-quarter growth of 6.1 percent.

Other indicators of China's economic health including retail sales, housing prices and factory activity also are improving.

June imports also fell, declining 13.2 percent from a year earlier, Xinhua said. That was an improvement over May's 25.2 percent fall and far better than January's record 43.1 percent plunge.

China's global trade surplus narrowed to just $8.2 billion, its second-smallest gap in many years after February's $4.8 billion. Last year's trade gap was as high as $40 billion a month.

Stronger imports suggest China's appetite for iron ore, industrial components, consumer goods and other products is picking up as companies buy supplies for stimulus-financed projects.

Global commodity prices are down from last year's highs, so imports have declined in financial terms even as they rise in volume.

Hu cautioned that stronger imports reflect stimulus-fueled demand in some areas while other segments of the economy are still lackluster.

"The increase is not due to the rebound in China's general demand, but a jump for certain products related to the investment," Hu said.

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