Investing.com – Asian stock markets continued to trade ever lower on Friday afternoon after China posted worse-than-expected export data.
China’s exports for February tumbled 20.7%, much lower than market expectations of a 4.8% drop. It also reversed January gains of 9.1%. Imports were also down 5.2%, while the market estimated a 1.4% decline only.
The February export data represented the biggest tumble in three years, and imports also fell for a third straight month.
The decrease has left China with a trade surplus in February of $4.12 billion, much smaller than the expected $26.38 billion.
The worse-than-expected export data sent Chinese stocks further down on Friday afternoon. By 12:33 PM ET (05:33 GMT), the Shanghai Composite was down 3.04% to 3,011.87 and the Shenzhen Component lost 1.28% to 9,554.20.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also slid 1.45% to 28,362.00.
But market watchers warn that seasonal factors such as the long Lunar New Year holidays in February attributed to the business disruptions and the data should be interpreted with caution.
However, China also shows signs of a slowing economy. Chinese policymakers lowered GDP growth targets to between 6% to 6.5% on Tuesday.
The meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB) the day before also stirred fears of a global economic slowdown, weighing on Asian markets on Friday morning.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 2.13% to 20,999.00 and the KOSPI in Korea was trading down 1.24% to 2,139.02.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was also down by 0.96% to 6,203.80.
On Thursday, the ECB cut its 2019 economic growth forecast and announced a series of stimulus measures to encourage lending. It also plans to keep its key interest rates unchanged throughout 2019.
“We are (in) a period of continued weakness and pervasive uncertainty,” said ECB President Mario Draghi.
What further clouds the global economic outlook is the ongoing U.S-China trade talks that have yet to reach an end, though U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly eager to close a deal ahead of the 2020 re-election campaign.