[BEIJING] China's imports decreased at their slowest pace in more than a year-and-a-half in May, official data showed Wednesday, in a possible sign domestic demand in the world's second-largest economy may be recovering.
The country is a key driver of world growth and its demand for commodities has enormous implications for resource-rich nations from Australia to Nigeria.
China's imports have been shrinking since late 2014 as the country's once blistering expansion lost steam, slowed down by manufacturing overcapacity, a slowing property market and mounting debt.
But the year-on-year drop of 0.4 per cent in May imports - the 19th straight down month - marked the slowest rate of decline since October 2014, when they grew 4.6 per cent, customs data showed.
The results were also well ahead of the Bloomberg News median forecast of a 6.8 per cent decrease based on a poll of economists.
The value for May imports stood at US$131.1 billion, according the Chinese customs office.
However, exports fell 4.1 per cent last month from a year ago to US$181.1 billion, following a 1.8 per cent decline in April and leaving a trade surplus of just under US$50 billion, the figures showed.