May 7, 2020

China reports April 2020 trade data as coronavirus outbreak eases

Excavators are concentrated on the wharf for export. Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China, May 5, 2020.

Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

China reported that its dollar-denominated exports rose but imports fell for the month of April as movement restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak eased.

Data from the General Administration of Customs released on Thursday showed exports rose 3.5% from a year ago while imports fell 14.2% in the same period.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected exports to have fallen 15.7% in April from a year earlier while imports were expected to have fallen 11.2% from a year earlier.

In March, China’s exports fell 6.6% from a year ago, while imports slipped 0.9% in the same month.

Ahead of the data release, Liu Li-gang, chief economist for China at Citigroup, said the country’s medical exports likely rose in April as it shipped goods to the rest of the world.

“The number in the early part of April was very strong already,” Liu told CNBC before the data release.

China’s trade surplus for the month of April was $45.34 billion as compared to the $6.35 billion economists polled by Reuters had predicted.

China reported trade surplus of $19.9 billion for the month of March.

Chinese businesses are reopening and getting back to work as the daily number of new coronavirus cases slow in the country.

But the situation remains serious in the rest of the world with more than 3.74 million people infected so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Many economies have come to a halt due to widespread lockdowns, hitting consumption and demand.

Even though China looks like it’s turning the corner in the pandemic, with domestic tourism returning over the Labor Day holidays from May 1-5, challenges still remain where demand is concerned, said Helen Qiao, head of Asia economics at BofA Securities.

While there is some pent-up demand after lockdowns, low-income households have been hit much more by the movement restrictions, Qiao told CNBC on Thursday before the data release.

Spending on services would also be lower than a year ago. “People may feel probably a bit worried or nervous about going to malls, to dine there or to stroll around, or to send their kids to their English extra curricular education center etc.,” said Qiao.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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