Chinese exports rose unexpectedly in July, beating expectations for a fall, as trade tensions with the US continued to simmer.
Official figures showed exports rose 3.3% last month, compared to forecasts for a 2% drop.
Imports fell 5.6% in July, less than the expected 8.3% decline.
Still, analysts tip China’s economy will remain under pressure as Washington prepares to hit Beijing with a fresh round of tariffs next month.
“Looking ahead, exports still look set to remain subdued in the coming quarters,” Capital Economics’ Senior China Economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said.
The US has vowed to impose duties on $300bn (£246bn) worth of Chinese products on 1 September, after long-running trade negotiations between the two countries broke down.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies intensified this week after the US officially named China a “currency manipulator” following a sharp drop in the value of the yuan against the US dollar.
The People’s Bank of China said on Monday that the slump in the Chinese currency was driven by “trade protectionism measures and the imposition of tariff increases on China”.
But central bank governor Yi Gang later said China would not engage in “competitive devaluations”.
A weaker yuan makes Chinese exports more competitive, or cheaper to buy with foreign currencies.
Nonetheless, fears of a currency war rattled markets earlier this week.
On Thursday, the PBOC set its official yuan midpoint below the key 7 level to the US dollar for the first time since 2008.
But the trading point was firmer than traders had expected, and was seen as a signal that authorities wanted to stabilise the decline in the currency.
The yuan steadied and stock markets moved higher in Asian trading hours.
Rising fears about the health of the global economy have prompted talk of recession, spreading anxiety about jobs and growth.
“Conditions probably won’t remain as healthy as they are now, as domestic demand is set to weaken after the tax hike,” Capital Economics Japan economist Marcel Thieliant says.
Over in Asia’s third-largest economy, growth has faltered amid sluggish demand at home and weak investment. India’s latest quarterly GDP growth dropped to a five-year low of 5.8%. The next GDP reading, due 30 August, could be weaker still.
The country has relied on domestic consumption to spur its huge economy, but spending has slowed sharply.
Car sales are one troubling example. In July, passenger vehicle sales plunged 31%, the steepest monthly fall in nearly two decades. The sector has slashed jobs and cut production as sales dry up.
So far this year, India’s central bank has cut rates four times. The benchmark rate currently sits at a near-decade low.
More stimulus measures to boost the economy, which is also battling the threat of a widening trade conflict with the US, are expected this year.
The Asian financial hub is fighting the pressures of a slowdown in China, the trade war and political unrest. Some economists expect that combination to push the territory into recession before long.
Gross domestic product shrank 0.4% in the three months to June compared with the previous quarter.
But those figures did not capture the impact of the pro-democracy protests that have gripped Hong Kong for more than two months, hitting tourism and retail sales.
Economists at DBS and Capital Economics are among those expecting that third-quarter numbers, due out in November, will show Hong Kong has fallen into a technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
The trade-dependent city state has been hit by weak global demand, slowing growth in China and the trade war.
Singapore is reliant on high-tech exports – and softer demand for electronics around the world has darkened its economic outlook.
The economy shrank by 3.3% in the second quarter, on a seasonally adjusted annualised basis. That prompted the government to cut its growth forecasts for 2019 to between 0% and 1%.
Oxford Economics expects that third-quarter GDP numbers, due in October, will show a contraction, meaning that Singapore will enter a technical recession.
Mr Kuijs says the impact of the trade war on Hong Kong and Singapore is “larger than in China itself, even though no one is imposing any tariffs on these countries”.
Concerns swirled earlier this year that South Korea could slip into recession. But it managed to avoid that outcome after huge government spending helped the economy swing back to growth in the second quarter.
Gross domestic product grew 1.1% in the three months to June compared with the previous quarter, when South Korea posted its sharpest contraction since the global financial crisis. In July, the country’s central bank cut rates for the first time in three years.
Much of the pain has been caused by faltering tech exports, driven by the global electronics slowdown. That trade is crucial to South Korea, since electronics account for around 30% of the country’s exports. A simmering trade battle with Japan is adding more uncertainty to South Korea’s growth prospects.