China’s weak trade activity adds pressure to stimulate economy

BEIJING — China reported weak trade activity in August, raising pressure on the central government to stimulate the nation’s slowing economy.

Imports fell 2.6% from a year earlier after growing 4.6% in July, underscoring China’s softening demand for commodities and raw materials. Exports grew 2.7% from a year earlier, up slightly from 1% growth in July.

The weak trade figures, announced Monday, come a day after China said industrial production had expanded at its slowest pace in three years.

To boost employment and investment, China recently announced a slew of infrastructure projects, including new subway lines. It also unveiled domestic subsidies for energy-efficient appliances to encourage more Chinese to buy.

In addition, over the last nine months, Chinese officials have implemented a variety of measures, including cutting interest rates to boost bank lending to businesses.

Still, China’s GDP grew 7.6% in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, the weakest showing since early 2009.

Pressure is growing to bolster the economy ahead of a once-in-a-decade Communist Party leadership transition next month.

“Despite a series of fairly significant measures … growth has not revived,” said Alistair Thornton, an economist for IHS Global Insight in Beijing.

“That is not to say the measures have been ineffective. Without them, the economy would surely look even more awful,” Thornton said. “But, they have been insufficient, and so yet more fuel is being added to the fire.”