China Experiences Surprise Drop In Exports

Chinese exports dropped point 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier. It was the worst performance in three months. Analysts think much of the drop was due to plunging demand from Southeast Asia. Investors have been pulling money out of the region on concern the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut bond purchases and the money supply will tighten.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a slide in Chinese exports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Chinese exports showed a surprise drop last month, according to government figures.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the September numbers underscore some of the challenges facing the world's second-largest economy.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Chinese exports dropped point three percent in September from a year earlier. It was the worst performance in three months. Analysts think much of the drop was due to plunging demand from Southeast Asia.

Investors have been pulling money out of the region on concern the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut bond purchases and the money supply will tighten. China's custom's office also says some of the drop was due to the unstable recoveries in developed economies. That includes the European Union, where Chinese exports also fell last month.

In an encouraging sign of Chinese demand, imports here were up more than seven percent in September. After many months of slowing growth, China's recent economic figures had been generally encouraging.

Beijing insists it can still hit its growth target of 7.5 percent this year. That figure would be enviable in any other major economy. But it's a far cry from China's double-digit growth rates of just a few years ago.

A clearer picture of the economy here may emerge on Friday, when the government releases GDP figures for July through September.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News.

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