BEIJING (Reuters) – China's exports in March fell by 2.7 percent year on year, the first drop since February last year, while imports rose 14.4 percent, more than expected, according to Customs data for Friday.
That left the country with a rare trade deficit of $ 4.98 billion for the month, also the first since last February.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected March shipments of the world's top exporter to rise 10.0 percent, slowing from the previous month's 44.5 percent, which is believed to be strongly distorted by seasonal factors.
Import growth was expected to rebound to 10.0 percent after a sharp slowdown to 6.3 percent in February.
Analysts expected China to record a trade surplus of $ 27.21 billion last month, from the February surplus of $ 33.75 billion.
For the first quarter, exports increased by 14.1 percent and imports increased by 18.9 percent year-on-year.
The commercial performance of China has had a strong beginning this year, after a solid rebound in 2017, thanks to the sustained demand in the country and abroad.
But the export outlook is clouded by a growing trade dispute with the United States, which could disrupt shipments from China and its supply chains, while a cooling real estate market may curb Chinese demand for imported raw materials as the iron ore.
Reports of the Beijing Monitoring Desk; Edition of Kim Coghill