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BEIJING: China’s export growth held up well in March, although analysts say the momentum could soon peter out with the world’s second-largest economy set to slow sharply due to the Ukraine war and domestic COVID-19 lockdowns.

Imports, on the other hand, unexpectedly fell as domestic consumption weakened amid widespread lockdowns to stop the spread of record COVID cases.

Outbound shipments rose 14.7% in March from a year earlier, official data showed on Wednesday, beating analyst expectations for a 13% rise, but slowed from a 16.3% gain in January-February period.

Imports fell 0.1%, marking the first decline since August 2020, compared with a 15.5% gain in the first two months of the year. Analysts had forecast an 8% increase.

China’s strong trade performance seen over the past two years is set to slow this year as other countries emerged out of COVID lockdowns and higher energy prices and global logistics disruptions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine squeezes exporters.

China’s yuan steadies as investors anxiously await PBOC’s rate decision

Factory activity in March fell as the declines in export order accelerated, manufacturing surveys showed, with firms reporting clients cancelled or suspended orders due to the uncertainties about the Ukraine war.

Qi Yong, general manager at a consumer electronics distributor Shenzhen Muchen Technology Co, told Reuters that export orders from their European clients fell 20% in March from a year ago, although outbound shipments for North America remained brisk.

Qi said this was due to “the war-induced weak purchasing power and risks of economic slowdowns in European economies,” adding that “exporters with exposure to the bloc may continue to feel the pinch.”

China posted a trade surplus of $47.38 billion in March, more than double the forecast $22.4. The country reported a $115.95 billion surplus in January-February.

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