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Shanghai stocks plummet more than 4 percent: ‘China’s trade recession has started to emerge’

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Shares in mainland China crumbled on Friday after Chinese trade data missed expectations by a wide margin.

Shanghai composite plunged 4.4 percent, the Shenzhen component tumbled 3.248 percent and the Shenzhen composite dropped 3.791 percent. The CSI 300, which tracks the largest shares on the mainland, plummeted nearly 4 percent.

The significant losses in Chinese stocks came as overall sentiment in Asia was downbeat for the day. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.5 percent, as of 3:14 p.m. HK/SIN.

China on Friday reported worse than expected trade data for the month of February. Dollar-denominated exports plunged 20.7 percent for the month from a year ago, missing economists’ expectations of a 4.8 percent decline, according to a Reuters poll. February’s dollar-denominated imports, meanwhile, fell 5.2 percent from the prior year, missing an expected 1.4 percent fall.

China’s February trade balance was also significantly weaker than expected at $4.12 billion. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the overall trade balance to come in at $26.38 billion. The country’s trade balance in January had been $39.16 billion.

In a note on Friday, ANZ said the release of the trade numbers reinforced its view that “China’s trade recession has started to emerge.”

China will require a stronger dose of stimulus to support growth, said Raymond Yeung, ANZ Research’s chief economist for Greater China.

“Looking ahead, we find little reason to expect a rebound in the near term on the back of a sluggish global electronics cycle,” he explained in the note, adding that Asia’s export figures are pointing to a “sobering” outlook.

That sentiment was echoed by Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics.

“We expect subdued global trade and the impact of US tariffs to continue to weigh on exports in the coming months, although the tariff suspension by the US and China and increased likelihood of a more lasting agreement should help eventually,” Kuijs said in a note following Friday’s data release.

— CNBC’s Huileng Tan contributed to this report.

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