Exports grew much more slowly than expected in December, official customs data shows, flagging weakness in the global economy as well as sharper symptoms of trade tensions with Washington.
Export growth fell to -4.4% year-on-year last month (US dollar terms), slowing from 5.4% in November. The market consensus was 2.0% based on a favourable point of comparison last year.
Growth in exports to the US fell more steeply from 9.8% y/y to -3.8%, suggesting that the frontloading effects earlier in the trade war by US buyers is wearing off. Export growth to the whole world also slowed.
Imports also fell sort of expectations, slowing to a two-year low of -7.6% y/y from 3.0%, against a Bloomberg median of 4.5%.
“With global growth set to cool further this year, exports will remain weak even if China can clinch a trade deal that rows back Trump’s tariffs,” wrote Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior economist at Capital Economics. Meanwhile, with policy easing unlikely to put a floor beneath domestic economic activity until the second half of this year, import growth is likely to remain subdued.”