China’s retail sales for April lowest in 16 years

China’s retail sales, as well as overall industrial output, slumped to its lowest level in 16 years, April data released on Wednesday indicated.

The country’s clothing sales were shown to have declined for the first in almost a decade, going all the way back to 2009. The trend suggests that the general consumer population in China had already grown weary of a slowing economy way before the U.S. moved to impose new tariffs on goods from the country.

Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that China’s overall retail sales for last month rose 7.2%, compared to figures registered in April 2018. It represents the sector’s slowest growth rate since May 2003.

That pace undershot that recorded in March at 8.7% and analysts forecasts for April at 8.6%.

According to the data, consumers appear to be cutting back everyday expenditure on products like cosmetics and personal care. They are also keeping off the more expensive ones like cars.

Taken in totality, China’s data for April fundamentally points to a slowdown, almost the opposite of what March readings had indicated.

Industrial output growth slowed, hitting unexpected levels at 5.4% in April, with the ‘on-year’ pace significantly lower than the 8.5% rate registered in March. Comparatively, analysts in a Reuters poll had given the sector an estimated growth rate of 6.5%.

Production in the motor vehicle industry also fell, dropping by about16% following weak demand.  Sedan output declined 18.8%, the sharpest decline it had seen since September 2015.

Data from the industry has shown that auto sales dropped nearly 14.6% last month, meaning that the sector has now recorded a slump for the 10th month in a row.

The Chinese exports markets reportedly also saw reduced activity in April as a threat of U.S. tariff hikes loomed and global demand weakened. Also affecting growth in April was the reduction in new factory orders, both from China and abroad.

Meanwhile, a nationwide survey conducted in April and basically based on the rate of joblessness showed some improvement. The rate went down slightly, from 5.2% in March to 5.0% in April.