BEIJING (Reuters) - China's imports and exports likely declined again in June after grim readings in May, fuelling expectations that more easing may be required, especially given an ongoing liquidity crisis in the country's stock market.
A persistent weakness in Chinese imports reflected sluggish domestic demand even as Beijing rolled out a flurry of steps to support the economy since last year. Meanwhile, erratic external demand added to strains on the world's second largest economy.
China's imports may have declined 15.0 percent in June from a year earlier, following a 17.6 percent drop in May, the median forecast of 24 analysts polled by Reuters showed.
"Lackluster domestic demand may continue to undercut June's imports, which likely post another decline of around 14 percent," Wang Tao, an economist at UBS, said in a note.
Yet the exports decline likely slowed to 0.2 percent in June from a drop of 2.5 percent in May due to improved external demand in the United States, China's top export market. The June trade surplus could be around $55.7 billion.
China's official factory purchasing managers' index in June showed new export orders fell to 48.2 from 48.9 in May, although the HSBC/Markit PMI showed the orders improved in June.
The Reuters poll also showed Chinese banks may have quickened the pace of lending in June to 1,050 billion yuan ($169.10 billion) from 900.8 billion yuan in May with government steps to fast-track infrastructure projects creating loan demands.
A seasonal reason also explains a surge in June as new loans in the second quarter on an average account for a third of the full-year total over the past decade.
In the Reuters poll, M2 money supply is seen growing 11.0 percent in June from a year earlier, up slightly from May's 10.8 percent rise.
WEAK TRADE PERFORMANCE
China's foreign exchange reserves, the world's largest, were expected to increase to $3.75 trillion at end-June from $3.73 trillion at the end of the first quarter.
This year, China has seen a weak trade performance, with combined exports and imports falling 8.0 percent in the first five months from a year ago, well below the official full-year target of 6 percent expansion.
Still, China's commerce ministry said last month it expected the trade performance to improve in the rest of this year.
Hurt by still-weak property market and slowing growth in investment, manufacturing and retail sales, China's economy grew at its slackest rate in 6 years in the first quarter, expanding by just 7.0 percent.
The government is due to release second-quarter gross domestic product data on July 15 and many economists expect an annual growth pace of below 7 percent, which would be the weakest performance since the global financial crisis.
To support the economy, the central bank has already cut lending rates four times in six months and reduced the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves.
(Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao and Nick Heath; Editing by Richard Borsuk)