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China trade shrinks again in May in latest sign of economic weakness

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HONG KONG — Chinese imports and exports shrank again in May, the latest sign of sputtering growth in the world's second biggest economy that adds to pressure on Beijing to avoid a sharp slump.

Customs data released Monday showed that exports contracted 2.8 percent from a year earlier to $1.17 trillion yuan ($189 billion).

Imports shrank 18.1 percent to $803.3 billion yuan ($129 billion). For the first five months of the year, total imports and exports fell 7.8 percent.

In dollar-denominated terms, exports shrank 2.5 percent while imports tumbled 17.6 percent, leaving a trade surplus of $59.49 billion, according to the customs data.

China's leaders are trying to steer the economy toward growth based on domestic spending and reduce its reliance on trade and investment.

The economy expanded 7 percent in the first quarter, the slowest quarterly growth since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The poor trade data comes a week after an official index of activity in China's giant manufacturing industry remained subdued, with both export demand and employment shrinking.

Policymakers in Beijing have unleashed several rounds of stimulus, including cutting interest rates three times in six months and slashing reserve requirement ratios for banks to free up money for lending. Analysts say more measures will likely be needed if growth slows too abruptly.

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