China’s export growth collapsed and imports rose less than estimated in July, adding to signs the global economy is weakening and raising the odds the government will step up measures to support expansion.
Outbound shipments increased 1 percent from a year earlier and imports rose 4.7 percent, the customs bureau said in a statement in Beijing. The trade surplus was $25.1 billion compared with $31.5 billion a year earlier. Export growth was below all 32 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.
Asian stocks slid as the data boosted evidence that China’s interest-rate cuts and accelerated approval of investment projects have yet to propel growth, after a report Thursday showed industrial output rose the least since 2009. The trade slowdown intensifies risks of a seventh quarter of deceleration in the world’s second-largest economy.
“The hope that external demand will underpin China’s economy is ever more diminished,” said Yao Wei, China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. “There is very little Beijing can do to help export growth while external demand is weak,” and actions such as subsidies or currency depreciation may risk trade conflicts, she said.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks extended losses after the data, declining 0.6 percent at 12:48 p.m. in Tokyo.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index of stocks fell 0.1 percent. The gauge rose Thursday for the fifth day after a report showed inflation cooled for a fourth month in July, giving the central bank more leeway to ease monetary policy. Separate reports showed industrial output growth unexpectedly slowed last month to 9.2 percent from a year earlier and retail sales rose 13.1 percent, trailing analysts’ forecasts.
The growth in July exports compared with the 8 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey and 11.3 percent in June. Analysts estimated a 7 percent gain in imports after a 6.3 percent increase in June. The median projection for the trade surplus was $35.1 billion, with estimates ranging from $27.3 billion to $38.9 billion.
Excluding distortions caused by the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, it was the worst export growth since 2009. The figures put China further at risk of missing its 10 percent goal of trade expansion for the year. China is still “confident” of achieving the target, Gao Hucheng, a vice commerce minister, said at a briefing.
China’s sales to European Union countries fell 16.2 percent last month and growth in U.S. exports slowed to 0.6 percent from 10.6 percent in June, customs data showed.
The odds the government will “greatly step up” policy easing or stimulus are “surely on the rise,” Lu Ting, head of Greater China economics at Bank of America Corp. in Hong Kong, said after the data. The central bank may cut banks’ reserve requirements “soon” and another interest-rate reduction is “in the pipeline,” Lu said, after two so far this year.
Barclays Plc cut its estimate for third-quarter growth to 7.7 percent from 8.2 percent while Deutsche Bank AG lowered its forecast to 7.5 percent from 7.9 percent.
China’s central bank halted gains in the yuan in the first half of the year, providing some help to exporters amid deteriorating global demand. The currency has fallen 1 percent against the U.S. dollar this year as of Thursday.
The yuan weakened less than 0.1 percent against the dollar today and was trading at 6.3624 at 12:24 p.m. in Shanghai, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System.
Li & Fung Ltd., the world’s largest supplier of clothes and toys to retailers, plunged in Hong Kong trading by the most since listing in 1992 after slowdowns in the U.S. and Europe caused a slump in first-half operating profit. The company, whose customers include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., sells goods that are made in China.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore said its economy shrank an annualized 0.7 percent last quarter, less than the preliminary reading of a 1.1 percent contraction.
European countries including Germany, Italy and Denmark will announce inflation data for July. French industrial production rose 0.1 percent in June from the previous month, according to a survey of 20 economists by Bloomberg News ahead of a report due Friday.
The Russian central bank is forecast to keep interest rates unchanged today. Bank Rossii’s main refinancing rate will remain at 8 percent, a quarter-point above the record low, according to 18 of 19 economists in a Bloomberg survey.
Brazil’s unemployment rate probably fell to 5.7 percent in June, the third monthly decline, based on the median estimate of 35 economists. Canada’s jobless rate may have been unchanged at 7.2 percent in July.
Exports present the biggest uncertainty to China’s outlook, Song Guoqing, an adviser to the People’s Bank of China, said last month. He estimated economic growth may slow to 7.4 percent this quarter.
In its second-quarter monetary policy report released Aug. 2, the central bank said the “primary risk for the global economy is still the European debt crisis,” and that the possibility of Europe “triggering a double dip in the global economy can’t be ruled out.”
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