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Hong Kong February exports post worst fall since Feb 2013

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's annual imports and exports fell more than 10 per cent in February, in the worst decline since early 2013 given global economic headwinds and a slump in trade with a slowing China.

Total imports in February fell 10.1 per cent to HK$237.6 billion (US$30.63 billion) from HK$264.2 billion a year earlier, government data showed on Tuesday. Exports fell 10.4 per cent to HK$204.5 billion from the same period a year earlier.

This was the largest decline for both imports and exports since February 2013, in what a government spokesman attributed to increased headwinds from weak global demand that had "put a significant drag on the export performance of many other Asian economies".

The spokesman also said in a statement that February's figures had been distorted by the Lunar New Year holiday that month, when businesses are shut down for extended periods.

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Hong Kong's external trading environment "will still be subject to considerable downside risks in the near term," the statement added, including a slowing global economy, normalisation of US monetary policy and heightened geopolitical tensions in different parts of the world.

Imports to Hong Kong from China in February fell 18.2 per cent, while the value of exports to China fell 6.4 per cent. China earlier reported that exports to Hong Kong had fallen 13.1 per cent in February to 14.6 billion yuan (US$2.26 billion).

There have been concerns of massive fake trade invoicing from China to Hong Kong, following a massive discrepancy in China's reported exports to Hong Kong in December, and the value of goods recorded by the financial hub for the same period.

The official trade figure gap raised concerns market players might have been artificially inflating trade invoices to move funds overseas to skirt China's capital controls and to disguise possible arbitrage activities.

The latest February trade figures, however, suggest there has been a narrowing of this gap from previous levels.