China exports plunge 17.2% in January-February on virus hit

AFP Beijing, Beijing, China Mar 07, 2020, 09.13 AM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Exports fell 17.4 percent, the biggest drop since February 2019 during the trade war with the United States, and imports dropped 4 percent, according to official data released Saturday.

China's exports plummeted in the first two months of this year on the back of a coronavirus epidemic that forced businesses to suspend operations, disrupting the world's supply chains.

Exports fell 17.2 percent, the biggest drop since February 2019 during the trade war with the United States, and imports dropped 4 percent, according to official data released Saturday.

A Bloomberg poll of economists had expected exports to drop less, by 16.2 percent, but had forseen a much starker drop on imports of 16.1 percent.

Consumers stayed home during the Lunar New Year break at the end of January and businesses saw a much slower return to work, as the country struggled to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed more than 3,000 people in China alone.

China's trade surplus with the US -- a key point of contention in the trade dispute between the two countries -- sharply narrowed 40 percent in the first two months, from $42 billion last year to $25.4 billion.

Chinese authorities said last month that January and February's data would be combined.

This is in line with how some other indicators are released, to smooth over distortions from the holiday break.

In an early sign of the economic impact to come, China's manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level on record in February, with non-manufacturing activity plummeting as well.