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China April exports, imports fall in sign of weakness

[BEIJING] China's exports slumped nearly two per cent in April compared to the same month last year, as imports fell almost 11 per cent, officials said Sunday, the latest sign of weakness in the world's second largest economy.

The key export sector has shown year-on-year declines in dollar terms for nine of the last 10 months as the country's economic growth has fallen to its slowest level in a quarter-century.

Sunday's figures from the state statistics bureau suggest an unexpected March export increase may have been a blip, and that meeting ambitious economic growth targets will be a challenge.

China exported about US$173 billion worth of goods in April, the bureau said, while importing products worth US$127 billion. As a result, the country's trade surplus rose to about US$46 billion.

The bureau earlier gave figures in terms of China's yuan currency, which showed a modest rise in exports in April. The dollar figure diverged as the yuan has depreciated over the last year.

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Beijing is attempting a difficult transition away from reliance on cheap exports and infrastructure investment towards hi-tech industry and consumer spending as its three-decade long growth model shows signs of wearing out.

But it is still targeting growth of 6.5 to 7 per cent this year, a figure some analysts say can only be reached through an unsustainable rise in bank lending.

The trade data comes after a private survey indicated this week that Chinese factory activity weakened further in April.

The Purchasing Managers' Index by Caixin, which tracks activity in the country's factories and workshops, fell for the 14th consecutive month.

China's economy, a vital driver of global expansion, grew 6.9 per cent last year. But its transition is proving bumpy and the growth slowdown has alarmed investors worldwide. AFP

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