China exports set to underscore worries over U.S., Europe demand


China's trade data on Wednesday is expected to underline concerns about the pace of a U.S. recovery and recession in Europe and that economic growth in the world's second-biggest economy is struggling to pick up.

The median forecast of 27 economists polled by Reuters pointed to annual export growth of 10.3 percent in April, up from an increase of 10 percent in March.

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China's imports were seen rising 13.9 percent in April from a year earlier, compared to a rise of 14.1 percent in March.

That would leave an estimated trade surplus of $15.1 billion, compared with a slight trade deficit of $0.88 billion in March. The data is due on Wednesday at around 10.00 p.m. ET.

China's figures come after major exporters South Korea and Taiwan posted weaker-than-expected exports for April, showing the fragility of global demand. Although the United States posted firm jobs numbers for April, they followed a series of weak data, while the recession-hit euro zone has record unemployment.

"The chance is very low of seeing a quick pick-up in the U.S. and EU economies and government austerity measures will continue to crimp consumer confidence, which could further weigh on demand for goods assembled in China," said Yang Weixiao, analyst at Lianxun Securities in Beijing.

The uncertainties will keep growth mild for the coming months, though Yang expects the pace of exports this year to pick up from last year.

"Generally speaking, we may see higher annual export growth this year than last year, and we expect a rise of 12-15 percent in 2013 versus 7.9 percent in 2012," he said.

A pair of PMI surveys last week showed growth in China's vast factory sector eased in April as new export orders shrank, offering new signs of a delay in an economic recovery.

That weakness has spread to the services sector, where a separate private PMI survey showed growth slowed sharply in April to its weakest pace since August 2011, adding to the risk that China's economic growth is weaker than previously anticipated.

China's economy unexpectedly stumbled in the first quarter, growing 7.7 percent from a year earlier versus a rise of 7.9 percent in the previous three months, as factory output and investment slowed. Analysts had expected growth to pick up in the first quarter.

A Reuters poll in April had forecast second-quarter annual growth of 8.00 percent.

To be sure, most economists expect a steady and gentle economic recovery this year, as investment growth quickens and retail sales stabilize from the second quarter onwards as government policies to stimulate growth kick in.

(Reporting by Beijing economics team; writing by Jonathan Standing; Editing by Neil Fullick)