SHANGHAI – China’s exports plunged 22.6 percent in April from a year ago, the sixth straight monthly decline, the government said Tuesday, while a torrent in bank lending meant to boost the economy lifted spending on factories and other fixed assets.
April’s decline in exports, to $91.9 billion, is bigger than March’s 17 percent drop and suggests China’s trade sector has yet to see much relief from the prolonged drought in demand brought on by the global downturn.
But there were some glimmers of positive news even in the trade figures. While exports of heavy machinery and other industrial equipment continue to fall, recent increases from the previous month in exports of clothing, shoes, plastics and other labor-intensive consumer goods suggest some recovery in demand, economists say.
American retailers have begun ordering to restock low inventories, amid signs that consumer spending may be stabilizing, Jing Ulrich, chairwoman for China equities at J.P.Morgan said in a note to clients.
“Nevertheless, operating conditions for Chinese exporters will remain challenging for some time,” Ulrich said, noting that orders at the recent spring trade show in southern China’s Guangdong fell 17 percent compared with the autumn show.
Demand for imports remains weak. Imports fell 23 percent to $78.8 billion, the Customs Administration reported, putting China’s trade surplus for April at $13.1 billion.
That compared with an $18.6 billion surplus in March.
Meanwhile, China’s investments in factories and property development jumped 30.5 percent from a year earlier in the first four months of the year to 3.71 trillion yuan ($543.2 billion), thanks to a slew of bank loans for government stimulus projects.