Asian markets hit as China reports sharp drop in trade for December

Exports and imports record worst numbers since 2016 as trade war and softening demand bite

Car sales in China declined last year for the first time since 1990, official figures showed on Monday. Photograph: Reuters

Car sales in China declined last year for the first time since 1990, official figures showed on Monday. Photograph: Reuters

 

China reported a sharp drop in exports for December, sending stock markets across Asia lower, as a global slowdown and a punishing trade war with the US hit the world’s second-largest economy.

The 4.4 per cent fall in December exports came as China reported an annual trade surplus with the US of $323 billion, the highest since at least 2006, according to Reuters data, as exporters rushed to ship orders ahead of a threat of rising tariffs.

A 7.6 per cent monthly import decline in December underlined how growth was slowing in China, because of weakening investment and consumption following Beijing’s drive to reduce debt in the economy.

Car sales in China, the world’s largest car market, also declined last year for the first time since 1990, official figures showed on Monday, adding to fears that consumers are reducing spending.

Confounded expectations

The December trade contraction confounded expectations, hitting Asian markets. Companies listed on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed down 1.38 per cent on Monday, while shares listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 0.87 per cent.

The offshore renminbi was also weaker by 0.10 per cent in late afternoon, at Rmb6.7665 against the US dollar.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019