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Another Month of Losses for Chinese Imports

FILE - Piles of steel pipes to be exported are seen in front of cranes at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, March 7, 2015.

China says imports plunged by double digits in September, signaling further economic weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

The Customs Department said Tuesday that imports dropped just over 20 percent last month compared to the same period a year ago, marking the 11th consecutive month of losses. Exports fell nearly four percent last month, leaving China with a $60.34 billion global trade surplus for September.

Analysts had expected a decline in imports of about 15 percent.

The numbers underscore the challenges for policymakers in Beijing as they try to transform China's economy to one driven by domestic consumer-demand instead of exports. China's economy is growing at its slowest rate in 25 years, despite five interest rate cuts since last November and increased spending on infrastructure.

The slowdown has caused a worldwide slide in prices of commodities such as oil, copper and iron ore. The latest trade figures also make it unlikely that China can meet its economic growth target of seven percent.