The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

China's export growth accelerates in July while imports sag in sign of economic weakness

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BEIJING, China - China's export growth accelerated in July but imports sagged in a possible sign of weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

Exports jumped 14.5 per cent from a year earlier, double June's 7.2 per cent growth, customs data showed Friday. Imports fell 1.6 per cent, down from the previous month's 5.5 per cent expansion.

Chinese leaders are counting on exports to help support employment while they try to nurture growth based on domestic consumption. Their plans call for annual trade growth of 7.5 per cent, but so far this year total imports and exports are up only 0.2 per cent.

Weakness in global demand for Chinese goods prompted the communist government to earlier this year launch mini-stimulus efforts based on higher spending on railways and other public works.

Economic growth edged up slightly to 7.5 per cent over a year earlier in the three months ending in June. It was 7.4 per cent in the first quarter.

The decline in July imports exceeded analyst forecasts and was a sign domestic economic activity might be weakening. So far this year, imports are down 0.8 per cent compared with the same period last year.

"The softer July import data hint at some uncertainty regarding the sustainability of the domestic economy's near term rebound," said JP Morgan economist Haibin Zhu in a report.

That suggests the government is likely to continue support policies in selected areas such as service industries and small business, Zhu said. At the same time, he said the government will try to contain "downside risk" due to weak real estate sales.

July exports totalled $212.9 billion while imports were $165.6 billion. China's politically sensitive global trade surplus more than doubled over a year earlier to $47.3 billion.

The country's trade surplus with the European Union, its biggest trading partner, swelled by 37 per cent over a year earlier to $13.7 billion. That with the United States widened by 17 per cent to $22.3 billion.

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General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): www.customs.gov.cn

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