Coronavirus News Asia

China’s economy peeps through Covid-19 rubble


Deciphering economic data amid the Covid-19 carnage is like pogoing across a minefield. And when it comes to China, there are usually pieces of shrapnel in the air.

On Thursday, the country’s export numbers for April created a few fireworks, but there were also one or two bombs. Imports imploded while the Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index for the services sector dropped below the radar.

“Monthly trade numbers are volatile in the best of times, and even more so now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So we wouldn’t read too much into these,” Trivium China, the research group, said in a note.

Data released by the General Administration of Customs showed exports jumped 3.5% last month compared to the same period in 2019. It was the first sign of positive growth since December last year. A forecast of analysts by Bloomberg had predicted an 11% decline.

Still, the rise was fuelled in part by shipments of medical equipment, including traditional Chinese medicine and textiles, which include masks. The customs agency reported the sector was worth 71.2 billion yuan, or US$10.03 billion, to Chinese manufacturers during the period between March-April.

Overall, exports of medical instruments and devices jumped 11% in the first four months compared to the same period last year.

Imports plunged

“April shipments may [also] have been boosted by exporters making up for shortfalls in the first quarter due to supply constraints then,” Louis Kuijs, the head of Asia economics, at the research group Oxford Economics, said in a note.

Concerns were also raised by Nick Marro, the lead analysts on global trade at The Economist Intelligence Unit, after imports plunged by 14.2% last month, year-on-year.


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