China's Exports Cool

China reported the slowest export growth in four months, two days after the government pledged an unprecedented $586 billion of spending to sustain the expansion of the world's fourth-largest economy.

Exports climbed 19.2 percent in October from a year earlier after gaining 21.5 percent in September, the customs bureau said in a statement on its Web site today. Imports rose 15.6 percent, the least since June 2007.

The trade surplus swelled to a record $35.2 billion as falling commodity prices and weaker demand cut the import bill. The government's plan to increase spending on low-cost housing, roads and railways may be accompanied by more interest-rate cuts after a separate report showed inflation cooled to the slowest pace in 17 months.

China's economy grew 9 percent in the third quarter and its expansion next year may be 7.5 percent or less, the weakest in almost two decades, according to UBS AG and Credit Suisse AG. A property slump in the nation that's the biggest contributor to global growth has coincided with waning export demand because of the financial crisis.

Exports grew more than the 18.1 percent median estimate of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Inflation last month was 4 percent, the statistics bureau said today.

Manufacturing contracted by a record last month, industrial output grew by the least in six years in September, and the halving of inflation from a 12-year high in February may be another sign that the economy is losing steam.

After accelerating in 2007 and early 2008 as a pork shortage sent meat prices soaring, inflation has slowed for six straight months, partly because of improved food supplies and falling commodity prices.

Net exports accounted for 4.9 percent of the nation's expansion in the first half of this year, down from 21.5 percent in all of 2007, according to central bank figures.

The central bank has stalled the yuan's gains against the dollar since mid-July, helping to protect exporters of toys and textiles. A weaker currency makes exports cheaper. The government has also raised export-tax rebates and reduced restrictions on lending to stimulate growth and protect jobs.

About half of China's toy exporters shut down in the first seven months of the year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a customs bureau report.

11/11/2008 5:00:37 AM