China’s export growth halved last month in dollar terms as imports slowed markedly more than expected, tracking with recent readings that suggested slower expansion in the country’s manufacturing sector in April.

Exports grew 8 per cent year on year in dollar terms in April, slowing from from a 16.4 per cent rise in March, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.

That still compares favourably to an annual fall of almost 2 per cent in 2016, but was below a median estimate of 10.4 per cent growth from economists polled by Reuters.

Imports rose 11.9 per cent year on year, slowing from 19.8 per cent growth in March and falling well below expectations of deceleration to an 18 per cent rise. That sluggish rise in inbound shipments follows an independent reading on China’s domestic manufacturing sector for last month that pointed to the slowest expansion since September.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital economics, said export growth could be expected “to hold up well given the relatively bright outlook for the global economy this year.”

But he added:

Growth in inbound shipments will continue to face headwinds, however. In particular, policy tightening will further weigh on domestic demand in coming quarters, with the impact on import values amplified by declines in commodity prices.

April trade flows took China’s trade surplus to $38.1bn, up $23.9bn in March and besting a median estimate of $35.5bn from economists. The country’s trade surplus with the US rose $3.6bn to $21.3bn – just $100m shy of January’s level – while that with the EU climbed $3.1bn to $10.8bn.

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