China's imports drop 19.7 percent in January, exports also down in continuing weak demand

Both China's imports and exports declined in January in a sign of continued weak demand.

The General Administration of Customs said Sunday that exports dropped 3.2 percent to 1.23 trillion yuan ($200 billion) in January, compared with a 9.7 rise in December.

Imports tumbled 19.7 percent to 860 billion yuan ($140 billion), compared with a decline of 2.4 percent a month earlier.

The trade surplus — or the amount exports exceed imports — expanded 87.5 percent to 366.9 billion yuan ($60 billion).

China's trade figures early in the year are often volatile because companies rush to fill orders before shutting down for the Lunar New Year, which falls in January or February.

Chinese demand for imported oil, iron ore, food and other goods has cooled as economic growth slowed.