Amid signs of worsening economic conditions on the mainland and in the United States and Europe, Hong Kong's trade fell last month.
The value of exports fell 4.8 per cent year on year to HK$278.2 billion, after a 5.2 per cent increase in May, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The city's imports dropped 2.9 per cent year on year to HK$322.9 billion, after growing 4.6 per cent in May.
Correspondingly, the container throughput of Hong Kong, the world's third-busiest port, fell 6.8 per cent year on year, after a 2.7 per cent rise in May, according to the Port Development Council.
Compared with the first quarter, the value of the city's exports and imports slid 3.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively in the second quarter.
'The overall trend since the beginning of this year is the slowing down of our exports, corresponding to the slowdown of China's exports, as well as sluggish overseas markets. I'm not terribly optimistic about the second half,' said Edward Leung, chief economist of the Trade Development Council.
For the whole year, the value of export growth will be 1 per cent in nominal terms, but in real terms, this figure might decline as much as 3 per cent, Leung predicted.
While exports to the European Union remained the weakest spot, widespread weakness was also seen across many major markets, a government spokesman said.
'Looking ahead, the external sector is still faced with mounting headwinds from the debt situation in Europe, the sluggishness in many advanced economies, as well as the negative spillovers to Asia,' the spokesman said.
'Hong Kong's export outlook thus remains challenging in the near term.'
Amid the ongoing European crisis, Hong Kong's exports to Britain plunged 18.9 per cent year on year last month, while its exports to Germany fell 16.2 per cent.
Exports to the mainland and the US decreased 3.9 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.
Hong Kong's exports to Asia as a whole declined 4.1 per cent.
'The impact of slowing demand from Europe and China continues to hamper the Hong Kong economy's attempt to make a full recovery, especially where trade is concerned,' said Donna Kwok, HSBC economist for Greater China.
Given the slowdown in trade, it was likely growth would be much slower this year, the TDC's Leung said.