China’s Exports Decline

China’s exports fell for the first time in seven years, more evidence that recessions in the U.S., Europe and Japan are driving the world’s fourth-largest economy into a slump.

Exports declined 2.2 percent in November from a year earlier, the customs bureau said in a statement on its Web site today. Imports plunged 17.9 percent, pushing the trade surplus to a record $40.09 billion.

China’s leaders pledged more forceful measures” to help small companies and create jobs in statements within hours of the trade report. The export collapse intensifies pressure on the government to add to last month’s steepest interest-rate cut in 11 years, extend a 4 trillion yuan ($581 billion) spending plan and let the yuan depreciate.

Imports fell by the most since at least 1995, when Bloomberg data began, as commodity prices declined and weakness in manufacturing and construction cut demand for raw materials. The previous decline was seven years ago.

China’s exports quadrupled after the country joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, helping to make it the fastest-expanding major economy and the biggest contributor to global growth.

In October, exports rose 19.2 percent and imports climbed 15.6 percent. None of 18 economists surveyed on exports and 17 polled on imports predicted a decline in November.

A breakdown in global trade finance may have been as damaging as waning demand, Williams added.

The value of exports was $115 billion, the lowest in eight months and down from a peak of $136.6 billion in July.

The yuan’s biggest one-day decline in three years on Dec. 1 prompted speculation that China may allow its currency to depreciate, helping exporters by making their products cheaper in overseas markets.

The central bank pledged today to maintain a moderately loose” monetary policy and aid small businesses, in a statement after a three-day annual meeting in Beijing where China’s leaders set economic policy.

Tax cuts, a stable” yuan and extra efforts to create jobs will be part of efforts to maintain stable and relatively fast growth” and ensure social stability, China National Radio said after the meeting.

China’s economy grew 9 percent in the third quarter, the weakest pace in five years. Producer-price inflation was the slowest in two years last month and foreign direct investment fell 36.5 percent from a year earlier, the government said in separate statements today.

Exporters of toys, clothes and furniture are cutting production or closing down, triggering a surge in labor disputes and increasing the risk of social unrest in the world’s most populous nation.

China’s Exports Decline,
12/10/2008 5:24:24 AM