The value of Chinese imports and exports fell heavily over the course of the year until December, adding a long list of evidence that all was not well in the second largest world economy at the end of 2018.
According to the Chinese General Administration of Customs, the value of exports fell by 7.6% compared to the previous year in terms of US dollars, coming well below the estimates of median economist offered to Reuters for an increase of 5 %.
Exports also surpassed expectations by some margin, slipping by 4.4% in terms of US dollars as of December 2017, with no forecast for a 3% increase.
The annual decline in imports and exports has been the most consistent since the second half of 201
The monthly trade surplus rose to $ 57.06 billion, the largest since December 2015. Markets were looking for the surplus to rise to $ 51.5 billion after rising to $ 44.71 billion at November.
To be noted, China's monthly trade surplus with the United States fell to $ 29.87 billion, below the $ 35.54 billion level in November. However, for the full year, it rose 17.2% to 323.32 billion dollars, the highest level ever recorded.
Imports from the United States grew by 0.7% in the year, far exceeding the 11.3% increase in the value of exports in the opposite direction.
Combined, and despite the intensification of the trade war between the two economic superpowers, total bilateral trade increased by 5.7% compared to 2017 levels.
Compared to 2017, China's trade surplus with the world, including the United States, fell to $ 351.76 billion, the smallest since 2013. During this period, the value of imports rose 15.8% in dollar-denominated terms, more rapidly than 9 , 9% increase in exports.
The financial markets did not respond well to the detail of the trade report, in particular the year-on-year drop in imports and exports, with stocks, most commodities and China-proxy games such as the Australian dollar that suffers a new sales pressure.
"Sorry, no front loading into this data to hang my hat!" Said Stephen Innes, Asia-Pacific's trading manager at OANDA.