Business

China exports saw biggest fall in three years in February

Men stand on a port in China Image copyright Getty Images

Chinese exports saw the steepest fall in three years in February, adding to worries about growth in the world's second largest economy.

Official data show exports from China plunged 20.7% from a year earlier, as its trade war with the US took a toll.

Imports fell 5.2% and the figures sent Asia stock markets sharply lower.

Economists caution the data for the first two months of the year can be affected by the Lunar New Year holiday.

The fall in exports was far bigger than the 4.8% drop forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Imports also saw a sharper than expected fall of 5.2% year-on-year, the data showed.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, Senior China Economist at Capital Economics said even accounting for seasonal distortions, the figures were "downbeat".

"Tariffs are weighing on shipments to the US," he wrote in a research note.

The US and China have placed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of one another's goods since July, casting a shadow over the global economy.

Even though officials have sounded more positive about negotiations with the US recently, failure to achieve a deal would see tariffs on $200bn (£152bn) of Chinese goods rise almost immediately and could see the US impose fresh tariffs.

Still, Mr Evans-Pritchard said "broader weakness in global demand means that, even if Trump and Xi finalise a trade deal soon, the outlook for exports remains gloomy."

The data comes as Beijing this week unveiled $298bn worth of tax cuts to boost slowing growth.

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