Annual growth in China's exports and imports slowed in October, data showed yesterday, reinforcing signs of fragility in the world's second-largest economy that could prompt policymakers to roll out more stimulus measures. Exports rose 11.6 per cent last month from a year earlier, slowing from a 15.3 per cent jump in September, the General Administration of Customs said. The figure was slightly above market expectations in a Reuters poll of a 10.6 per cent rise. A decline in China's leading index on exports in October pointed to weaker export growth in the next two to three months, the administration said. "The economy still faces relatively big downward pressure as exports face uncertainties while weak imports indicate sluggish domestic demand," said Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai. "The central bank may continue to ease policy in a targeted way." Imports rose an annual 4.6 per cent in October, pulling back from a 7 per cent rise in September, and were weaker than expected. That left the country with a trade surplus of US$45.4 billion for the month, which was near record highs. Annual growth slowed to 7.3 per cent in the third quarter - the weakest since the height of the global financial crisis - as a cooling property sector weighs on domestic demand. China's external trade environment may improve slightly in 2015 but still faces uncertainties, the Ministry of Commerce said in a report published yesterday. "It's difficult for external demand to show a significant rebound," the ministry said. China's combined exports and imports rose 3.8 per cent in the first 10 months from a year earlier, the administration said. That suggests the country will miss its trade-growth target for a third consecutive year. The government missed its targets of 8 per cent in 2013 and 10 per cent in 2012 and aims for 7.5 per cent growth this year. A deluge of China data over the coming week, including factory output and investment, is likely to show a persistent cooling in the economy, reinforcing views that authorities may need to do more to boost growth. China's reform-minded leaders have refrained from acting forcefully, such as by cutting interest rates. That has caused concerns among some analysts that the modest policy measures may not be enough to prevent a sharper slowdown.