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China reports double-digit plunge in July exports and imports, missing expectations

A container ship from China-owned Cosco Shipping sits in the Port of Oakland in California on Aug. 7, 2023.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING — China said Tuesday that exports fell by 14.5% in July from a year ago, while imports dropped by 12.4% in U.S. dollar terms.

That’s worse than what analysts had expected.

A Reuters poll predicted a 12.5% decline in exports in July from a year ago, in U.S. dollar terms. Imports were expected to have dropped by 5% during that time, according to the poll.

China’s exports to the U.S. plunged by 23.1% year-on-year in July, while those to the European Union fell by 20.6%, CNBC analysis of customs data showed. Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations fell by 21.4%, according to the data.

China’s imports from Russia fell by 8.1% in July from a year ago, the data showed.

A slowdown in U.S. and other major economies’ growth has dragged down Chinese exports this year. Meanwhile, China’s domestic demand has remained lackluster.

Chinese imports of crude oil dropped by 20.8% in July from a year ago, while imports of integrated circuits fell by nearly 17%.

July’s decline in trade adds to recent weakness in China’s exports and imports.

On a year-to-date basis, China’s exports for the first seven months of the year fell by 5% from a year ago, while imports dropped by 7.6% during that time.

Among the few higher-value export categories that saw a significant increase in the first seven months of the year were cars, refined oil and bags, suitcases and similar receptacles.

For imports, paper pulp, coal products and edible vegetable oil were among the categories seeing significant growth in the January to July period from a year ago.

Exports remain an important part of China’s overall economic activity, although its share has fallen in recent years.

An official measure of Chinese manufacturing activity posted a fourth-straight month of contraction in July.

A similar survey from Caixin for July found that manufacturers’ new export business contracted at the fastest pace since September 2022.

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