China’s exports in January plunged by 17.5%, their sharpest drop in more than a decade, the AP reported, citing customs data released on Tuesday. It marked the third straight month of declining exports, but January’s decline steeper by an order of magnitude from the 2.8% decline recorded in December. "The numbers are terrible. The environment is awful. The pressures on employment will be huge," Citigroup economist Ken Peng said. However some said the economic downturn may not be as severe as suggested by the January figures, due to the seasonal effect of the Lunary New Year holiday. Imports fell by 43% in January, resulting in a trade surplus of US$39.1 billion, just above the US$39 billion trade gap recorded in December. China’s trade surplus with the US grew by 1.9% to US$12.3 billion in January.