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China’s external trade down by 10.8 pct in January

China’s foreign trade dropped by 10.8 percent in January after the steepest decline in imports in nearly six years, figures from the Chinese General Administration of Customs show.

The customs announced on Sunday the nation’s imports tumbled by 19.7 percent year-on-year to 860 billion yuan (US$140 billion) in January, the largest fall since May 2009.

Exports also dropped by 3.2 percent year-on-year to 1.23 trillion yuan the first monthly decline since March 2014.

The large fall in imports relative to a more modest decline in exports helped China to post a record trade surplus of 366.9 billion yuan in January, increasing by 87.5 percent from a year earlier. China’s total trade volume retreated by 10.8 percent to 2.09 trillion yuan.

“The Spring Festival impacts foreign trade data at the beginning of every year,” explained the customs in a statement accompanying the January data. This year’s spring festival, or Chinese New Year, falls on February 19.

But the worsening trade figures deepen concerns of an economic slowdown in China. Factory activity there also shrank for the first time in more than two years in January. China’s gross domestic product grew by 7.4 percent last year, the slowest pace in 24 years.