BEIJING — China's trade shrank in December but the decline was smaller than November's in a positive sign for lackluster economic growth.
Exports declined 1.4 percent from a year earlier to $224.1 billion, an improvement over the previous month's 6.8 percent contraction, customs data showed Wednesday. Imports were down 7.6 percent at $164 billion, a smaller loss than November's 8.7 percent fall.
China's trade data reflect weak global demand and a decline in domestic economic growth, but economists say retail spending and manufacturing might be improving.
Economic growth fell to a six-year low of 6.9 percent in the quarter ending in September. Full year growth is expected to come in at or just below 7 percent.
"China's improved trade data in December will probably act to reassure global investors unnerved by the recent volatility in the country's financial and foreign-exchange markets," said Tom Rafferty of the Economist Intelligence Unit in a report. "The data is in line with other indicators that suggest China's economy is stabilizing on the back of sustained stimulus measures."
In December, the country's global trade surplus widened by 21 percent to $60.1 billion.
For the full year, exports were off 2.8 percent at $2.3 trillion and imports were down 14.1 percent at $1.7 trillion. The global trade surplus was $594 billion.
The country's trade surplus in December with the European Union, its biggest trading partner, swelled 36.8 percent to $15.6 billion. The surplus with the United States contracted 6 percent to $19.4 billion.
General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): http://www.customs.gov.cn