China's December imports and exports shrank but the decline was smaller than November's in a positive sign for lackluster economic growth.

Customs data on Wednesday showed exports declined 1.4 percent from a year earlier to $224.1 billion, an improvement over the previous month's 6.8 percent contraction. Imports were down 7.6 percent at $164 billion, a smaller loss than November's 8.7 percent fall.

China's trade data reflect weak global demand and a decline in domestic economic growth.

Economic growth fell to a six-year low of 6.9 percent in the quarter ending in September, but economists say they see signs of improvement in the final three months of the year.