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China's June exports, imports fall more than expected

China's June exports fell more than expected, while imports also saw a steeper fall than forecast, in a sign that the mainland's factory floors continued to slow.

In June, exports fell 4.8 percent year-on-year percent, while imports declined 8.4 percent, percent, in U.S. dollar terms. In yuan terms, exports rose 1.3 percent from a year ago, while imports declined 2.3 percent, according to Reuters, which cited customs data.

That compared with May exports in dollar-denominated terms tanking 4.1 percent on-year, more than double April's 1.8 percent fall, while imports edged down 0.4 percent, compared with April's 10.9 percent drop, according to Reuters reports.

In yuan terms, May trade data showed exports rose 1.2 percent on-year and imports were 5.1 percent higher.

Analysts were downbeat on the June data.

"The picture that emerges continues one of slow global demand and only moderate demand in China," Patrick Bennett, a strategist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note Wednesday.

The yuan-denominated figures were likely inflated by authorities' apparent willingness to let the currency weaken against the U.S. dollar. On Tuesday, the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) set the dollar-yuan fix at 6.6950, or a five-year low for the Chinese currency, although it walked that back a tad on Wednesday, setting the fix at 6.6891. The spot currency is allowed to move 2 percent in either direction from the fix level during daily trade.

"That exports in yuan terms expanded in June, marking the fourth consecutive month of growth, illustrates the impact of the weaker yuan, which is around 3 percent weaker against the U.S. dollar year-to-date, but around 7 percent weaker on a trade-weighted basis," Bennett said. "The results cannot disguise that global demand remains stilted, at best."

China's trade data have been closely watched not only for indications of the health of the mainland's slowing economy, but also for signs of how the transition from an emphasis on manufacturing to consumption-based growth is proceeding.

That transition has seen the service sector, which includes consumer industries such as real estate, retail and leisure, contribute more than 50 percent of the mainland's gross domestic product.

Analysts didn't expect much improvement ahead.

"Brexit will cloud China's export outlook," economists at ANZ said in a note Wednesday.

"The EU, including the U.K., represented about 16 percent of China's total exports. The uncertainty of Brexit is likely to weigh on demand for China's exports to the EU, similar to the situation when the European Debt Crisis in 2011-12 intensified. Clearly, China's external outlook will still face tremendous challenges."

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