BEIJING — China's trade numbers declined unexpectedly in March, with both imports and exports dropping significantly from last year, according to data released Thursday by the General Administration of Customs.
But economists and a government spokesman said the unanticipated drop is largely due to exaggerated figures from last year, not the sign of a significant slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
The new numbers show that China's exports in March fell by 6.6. percent from the same month last year, while imports were down 11.3 percent from March of 2013. Analysts had expected a slight pick-up in trade numbers that slumped through the February lull of the post-Lunar New Year holiday. Exports in February were down 18.1 percent, but there has been some concern that the sharp drops are related to bad bookkeeping over the course of last year.
Customs agency spokesman Zheng Yuesheng said the decline was related to over-inflated figures from 2013 and did not signify a serious drop in China's real trade data. Officials have said last year's data was propped up higher than reality by over-invoicing.
"China's foreign trade will recover in May," Zheng said in a statement.
For the first quarter of this year, China's trade was down by one percent overall. The customs agency said 3.4 percent while imports were up 1.6 percent in the first three months of 2014 compared with the same period last year. On paper, China's exports soared by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, but it now seems trade for tax fraud and attempts to disguise hot money may have played a significant role in those increased figures.
Economist Wang Fuzhong wrote on his Weibo microblog account that the decline for this year was a correction and nothing to get worked up about.
"Last year's export data was inflated as there was too much fake trade," Wang wrote.
Still, there are some fears this may be the latest in a growing number of signals that China's economy is slowing more than anticipated. The World Bank has just revised its growth projections for this year, saying the Chinese economy will increase by 7.6 percent in 2014, not the 7.7 percent it predicted earlier.
China has scaled back its own targets for trade growth, aiming for a 7.5 percent increase in foreign trade this year, compared with an 8 percent growth target.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty