China's economic woes worsened in January
China's trade performance slumped in January, with exports falling 3.3pc from a year earlier, while imports tumbled 19.9pc - far worse than analysts had expected and highlighting deepening weakness in the Chinese economy.
Largely as a result of the sharply lower imports - particularly of coal, oil and commodities - China posted a record monthly trade surplus of $60bn (€53bn).
Analysts had expected exports to gain 6.3pc and the deceleration in imports to slow to 3pc, following a better-than-expected showing in December. The poll had also forecast a trade surplus of $48.9bn.
The slide in imports is the sharpest since May 2009, when Chinese factories were still slashing inventories in reaction to the global financial crisis.
Exports have not produced a negative annual reading since March 2014.
The dismal trade performance will increase concerns that an economic slowdown in China - originally considered a desirable adjustment away from an investment-intensive export model towards one based on domestic consumption - is at risk of derailing.
The government is expected to lower its GDP target to around 7pc this year, after posting 7.4pc in 2014 - the slowest pace in 24 years.
Chinese economic indicators in January and February are typically viewed with caution given the distortions caused by the shifting week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
However the data - in particular the import data - is worrisome even after accounting for cyclical factors.