China’s exports plunged 17.2% in Jan./Feb. 2020 on the back of a coronavirus epidemic that forced businesses to suspend operations, according to official data released Saturday. Chinese authorities said last month that January and February’s data would be combined, in order to smooth over distortions from the holiday break.
In an early sign of the economic impact still to come, China’s manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level on record in February.
Capital Economics’ Julian Evans-Pritchard says that combining Jan. and Feb. data means the “published growth rate won’t fully reflect the extent of the recent weakness,” since most of the disruption was concentrated in February. He added that the recent downturn in trade is “much deeper” than the trade data is likely to suggest.
“China’s economic growth mainly relies on exports, real estate and infrastructure. The outlook of exports and the property market this year isn’t so optimistic, so China will likely ramp up infrastructure investment,” Macquarie's Larry Hu said.