China's vital exports fell 17.1% in March, the government said on March 10, but the drop was not as sharp as the previous month.
"It certainly shows that exports remained weak. But the slowing pace is narrowing, which is a relatively positive sign at the moment," said Jason Xu, an economist with China International Capital Corporation in Beijing. "It's hard to say it signals a trend as uncertainties remain ahead."
March's decline in exports, which totaled $90.29 billion, followed a miserable February that saw a 25.7% year-on-year dive -- the worst slump in more than a decade. Imports in March plunged 25.1% from a year earlier to $71.73 billion. This led to a 41.2% year-on-year rise to $18.56 billion.
China's massive export machine has been humbled since late last year as the world financial crisis hit overseas demand for products made on what has become known as "the world's factory floor." The slowdown has led to the closure of thousands of exporting factories in the country's southern and eastern manufacturing heartlands. At least 25 million migrant workers from China's poor rural areas who normally find jobs in such factories are now unemployed, according to government data released last month.
Chinese authorities in November unveiled an unprecedented four trillion yuan (US$580 billion) stimulus package to combat the crisis, and economists have said this has had some impact.
Xu also pointed to some positive overseas factors. "Currently consumption data in the U.S. is showing some positive signs, which I think will probably give some support for (China's) exports in the short run," he said.
But exporters are not out of the woods yet, said Wang Hu, an analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities in Shanghai. Wang added that his firm projects export growth will not return to positive territory before 2010.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009