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China struggles with falling exports

China’s exports aren't really growing despite the yuan’s massive six per cent depreciation against the dollar in 2016. One major economic engine, housing and investment, looks poised to slow this year. Mortgage lending slowed and credit growth as a whole have dropped to their lowest level in ten months. Slowing credit growth means weaker investment down the line.

China’s December exports are down six per cent from a year earlier. In contrast, Korea has shown a rise of six per cent and Taiwan a rise of 14 per cent. So China’s Asian rivals are posing stiff competition and doing far better. China’s November exports to the US and Europe were up seven per cent and six per cent but then these are also the places where trade tensions are likely to flare up in 2017.

With growth in Europe and the US looking up, and developing countries struggling, Chinese export growth is poised to become more dependent on trade relations with the West. China’s labor market is looking better, so consumers will likely step up somewhat, and the investment slowdown will likely be moderate—barring a major policy misstep. But trade is still important, particular with capital outflows showing no sign of abating.