China's exports in November shrank for the fourth consecutive month, underscoring persistent pressures on manufacturers from the Sino-US war but growth in imports may be a sign that Beijing's stimulus steps are helping to stoke demand.
The 17-month long trade dispute has heightened the risks of a global recession and fueled speculation that China's policymakers could unleash more stimulus as growth in the world's second-largest economy cooled to nearly 30-year lows.
Overseas shipments fell 1.1 percent from a year earlier last month, customs data showed on Sunday, compared with a 1.0 percent expansion tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts and a 0.9 percent drop in October.
Imports unexpectedly rose 0.3 percent from a year earlier, marking the first year-on-year growth since April and compared with a 1.8 percent decline forecast by economists.
The better-than-expected import data may point to firming domestic demand after factory activity showed surprising signs of improvement recently, although analysts have noted the recovery could be difficult to sustain amid trade risks.
China's trade surplus for November stood at $38.73 billion, compared with an expected $46.30 billion surplus in the poll and a $42.81 billion surplus recorded in October.