Exports in Hong Kong in August registered their longest-ever run of monthly declines as weak demand and China’s sluggish recovery continue to weigh on economic growth.

Overseas shipments edged down 3.7% compared to last year to HK$358.3 billion ($45.8 billion), according to the Census and Statistics Department. This surpassed the average forecast of a 6.1% decline within a Bloomberg survey of economists. 

This indicated a 16th straight month of falls, exceeding those during the Chinese stock market crash in 2015/16 and following the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, Bloomberg reports.

In addition, imports fell 0.3% over last year, compared to economists’ forecasts of a 4.5% drop. The trade deficit stood at HK$25.6 billion.

For August, exports to Asia declined by 3.7% compared to the same month last year, according to a government spokesperson. Shipments to mainland China were down 1.5%, and those to Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines dropped by double digits, the Bloomberg report adds. Exports to the US and EU also declined.

“Weak external demand for goods will continue to weigh on Hong Kong’s export performance in the near term,” said a government spokesperson in a statement accompanying the data. 

The decline signals weak Chinese demand rather than Hong Kong’s small manufacturing sector, the report adds.

“The streak of declines shows Hong Kong’s external trade sector continues to face challenges,” said Gary Ng, senior economist at Natixis. 

Earlier in September, Hong Kong authorities unveiled a campaign aimed at boosting domestic consumption and attracting tourists to bolster the economy. 

In August, Hong Kong’s growth forecast for the year was reduced to a range of between 4% and 5%. This followed GDP for Q2 growing 1.5% compared to the previous year, falling far short of economists’ forecasts. 

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