China’s Imports Slump, Capping Dismal Jan Trade Performance (Reuters, Feb 8) Chinese imports were down 19.9% year-on-year in January, according to reports citing customs data. Meanwhile, exports fell 3.3% over the same period. These results left China with a record $60-billion trade surplus last month as the country pared back imports of commodities such as oil and coal. Specifically, coal imports crumbled 40% year-on-year to 16.78 million tons, while crude imports (in volume terms) sank 7.9%. Chinese crude orders had surged in previous months as stockpilers took advantage of falling global prices to fill the country’s strategic oil reserve.

The slowdown in Chinese demand suggested by January import figures has stoked concerns about the efficacy of government measures to rebalance the economy. Declining shipments to the European Union and Japan are another source of worry, particularly for the country’s export manufacturers.

Chinese trade was up 3.4% in value terms last year, undershooting a government target of 7.5%.

China January Inflation Hits Five-Year Low, Strengthens Case for More Policy Easing (Reuters, Feb 10) Consumer prices in China rose 0.8% year-on-year in January, according to reports citing figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. This marks the smallest rate of consumer inflation since November 2009, when prices rose by just 0.6%. Meanwhile, China’s producers’ price index was down 4.3% on an annual basis last month, marking the 35th straight month of year-on-year decline for the index as well as the steepest drop since October 2009.

Targeted Bank Reserve Policies to Continue in China: Official (Want China Times, Feb 8) China’s central bank will likely target agriculture and small businesses again in upcoming reserve requirement cuts, according to reports citing the bank’s head of research. Last week, the People’s Bank of China offered an across-the-board reserve requirement ratio reduction of 50 basis points to all commercial lenders in the country, plus an additional 50-point cut for city and rural banks that lend a certain share of deposits to farmers or small enterprises.

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