China's October imports fell by 16 percent from a year ago in a sign of weakness in the world's second-largest economy, while exports also shrank.

Customs data Sunday showed Chinese purchases of foreign goods improved from September's 20.4 percent decline, but fared worse than August's 5.5 percent drop, as China's demand for foreign goods became sluggish.

Sales of Chinese goods to foreign markets fell 3.6 percent, a slight improvement from the previous month's 3.7 percent contraction.

Weakness in trade has fueled doubts that Beijing can hit its economic growth target this year of about 7 percent.

The government has cut interest rates repeatedly since last year and pumped money into the economy through spending on public works construction.