Coronavirus News Asia

China’s trade stats fail to pierce virus gloom

No matter how you crunch the numbers, China’s trade data has failed to pierce the gloom as the Cover-19 catastrophe engulfs the global economy.

Data released on Tuesday bucked economic surveys with exports in dollar terms falling by 6.6% in March compared to the same period last year. As for imports, they slipped by just 0.9%.

Economists had expected exports to drop by around 14% after combined figures for January and February highlighted a plunge of 17.2% from 2019. Imports also suffered, tumbling by 9.5% as most of China went into various forms of lockdown after Chinese New Year.

“With economic activity in the rest of the world now collapsing, the worst is still to come for China’s export sector,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, the senior China economist at Capital Economics said. 

“The improvement in trade was probably larger than the change in the headline figure suggests. After all, March shipments were stronger than the average across January before the outbreak impacted trade and February when most factories were closed, and port operations were disrupted,” he added. “But the recovery in exports is likely to be short-lived.”

Nearly two million people across the planet have been infected by this new strain of coronavirus with the death toll edging close to 120,000.

Great Depression

Already the World Trade Organization has warned that 2020 could see the biggest collapse in international trade since the Great Depression or the “worst recession of our lifetimes.”

Last week, the International Monetary Fund issued a similar statement, pointing out that the planet now faces the deepest downturn since the 1930s. It was another reference to the Great Depression.

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