China Exports for May Slip Back Into Contraction, Imports Worst in 4 Years

June 7, 2020 Updated: June 7, 2020

BEIJING—China’s exports contracted in May as global CCP virus lockdowns continued to devastate demand, while a sharper-than-expected fall in imports pointed to mounting pressure on manufacturers as global growth stalls.

Overseas shipments in May fell 3.3 percent from a year earlier, after a surprise 3.5 percent gain in April, customs data showed on Sunday. That compared with a 7 percent drop forecast in a Reuters poll.

Imports tumbled 16.7 percent compared with a year earlier, worsening from a 14.2 percent decline the previous month and marking the sharpest decline since January 2016.

It had been expected to fall 9.7 percent in May.

“Exports benefited from the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market and exchange rate depreciation, while imports were affected by insufficient domestic demand and commodity price declines,” said Wang Jun, chief economist of Zhongyuan Bank.

As a result, China posted a record trade surplus of $62.93 billion last month, the highest since Reuters started tracking the series in 1981, compared with the poll’s forecast for a $39 billion surplus and $45.34 billion surplus in April.

China’s trade surplus with the United States widened to $27.89 billion in May, Reuters calculation based on customs data showed.

Export Headwinds

Both official and private factory surveys for May showed sub-indexes for export orders remained deep in contraction. Profits at China’s industrial firms fell almost 30 percent in the January-April period.

Analysts said bright spots like exports of medical supplies, of which China has dominated the supply chain, masked the strong headwinds faced by exporters stuck with unsold stock and cancelled orders from abroad.

In the first half of May, China shipped 63.2 billion yuan of medical supplies, Reuters calculations from customs data showed, compared with 71.2 billion yuan in the March-April period.

Highlighting the uncertain outlook, the Chinese communist regime said in late May it was not setting an annual growth target, for the first time since 2002, reflecting a cautious stance on policy easing. Export conditions remain unpredictable.

The economy shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier.