China's exports tumbled 17.2% in January-February from a year earlier, while imports shrank 4%, as a fast spreading coronavirus outbreak caused massive disruptions in economic activity that rippled through global supply chains, customs data showed on Saturday.
The export fall was the steepest since February 2019 and worse than a 14% drop tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts. Exports had risen 7.9% in December.
Analysts had forecast a 15% contraction in imports, reversing sharply from a rise of 16.5% in December.
China posted a trade deficit of $7.09 billion in the first two months of the year, compared with the poll's forecast for a $24.6-billion surplus, and a reversal of December's surplus of $47.21 billion.
China did not release trade figures for January alone.
Jan-Feb yuan-denominated exports slump
China's yuan-denominated exports in January-February fell 15.9% from the same period a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, while imports slid 2.4% as a fast spreading coronavirus outbreak caused severe disruptions to manufacturing activity.
That left China with a trade deficit of 42.59 billion yuan in the first two months of the year, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data.
China did not release January trade figures alone. Customs said last month it would combine January and February preliminary trade data, in line with how some of the country's other major economic indicators are released early in the year.