For the seventh month in succession, Chinese imports fell in May, with exports falling for the third month in a row.

Imports dramatically fell by 17.6% compared to a year previously, much sharper than economists forecast. While exports beat analysts’ predictions, the 2.5% slump will still worry policymakers in Beijing, who are trying to manage an unprecedented economic restructuring.

That China has embarked on significant stimulus over the first half of 2015 will also be of concern: the capital injection was designed to increase demand, but the fact that imports remain sluggish shows that this simply has not happened.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has slashed interest rates twice this year and three times since November 2014 in a bid to loosen the flow of capital. It has also made regulatory changes, decreasing the minimum reserve requirements in a bid to stimulate bank lending.

Despite this, a common observation from China is that small companies are struggling to get access to bank lending to assist with working capital, a problem exacerbated by the PBOC’s clampdown on the unofficial banking channels which often serviced the smaller ends of the market.

Lower commodity prices will also have had an effect on import volumes monetarily, with Chinese industrial buyers able to purchase more oil, steel and copper for their yuan.

“Imports of key industrial commodities have slowed,” says Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics. “This is in large part due to the sharp fall in global commodity prices since the middle of last year. That said, growth in commodity import volumes also weakened markedly last month, disappointing hopes that recent policy efforts to shore up growth would provide a boost to import demand.”

The weaker-than-expected export growth suggests still sluggish external demand growth. Morgan Stanley analysts

The continued slowdown in exports is also a matter of demand: overseas buyers’ appetite for Chinese goods keeps falling.

“We believe the weaker-than-expected export growth suggests still sluggish external demand growth, as also evidenced by Korea’s export data. Meanwhile, the weak import growth indicated still domestic demand growth has yet to come to a firmer footing. In our view, Chinese policymakers are likely to intensify policy easing domestically in the face of external demand instability, without resorting to currency depreciation,” write Morgan Stanley analysts in a note responding to the data.

A pickup in the US, as well as the impact of the PBOC recent expansionary policy is likely to filter through later in the year, which analysts hope will arrest the malaise.

And while commodity prices are predicted to remain sluggish, most experts agree that some – oil for instance – have bottomed out, and that we should see a slight recovery later in the year, which should bolster import volumes.

All things considered, however, concerns remain over China’s general economic wellbeing. Construction has slowed, in line with the government’s tightening on the credit floating around the property market. This has hit key materials sectors, such as iron ore.

Production is slow too: factory activity has slowed for each of the past three months, again an indicator of weak demand both domestically and abroad.