China's exports contracted in May as global coronavirus lockdowns continued to devastate demand, while a sharper-than-expected fall in imports pointed to mounting pressure on manufacturers as global growth stalls.
The sombre trade readings for the world's second-biggest economy could pile pressure on policymakers to roll out more support for a sector that is critical to the livelihoods of more than 180 million workers. Total trade accounts for about a third of the economy.
Overseas shipments in May fell 3.3pc from a year earlier, after a surprising 3.5pc gain in April, customs data published yesterday showed. That compared with a 7pc drop forecast in a Reuters poll.
While exports fared slightly better than expected, imports tumbled 16.7pc compared with a year earlier, worsening from a 14.2pc decline the previous month and marking the sharpest decline since January 2016.
As a result, China posted a record trade surplus of $62.9bn (€55.7bn) last month, the highest since Reuters started tracking the series in 1981, compared with the poll's forecast for a $39bn surplus and $45.3bn surplus in April.
China's trade surplus with the United States widened to $27.9bn in May, Reuters calculations based on customs data showed.