China official services PMI hits six-month high, supported third-quarter pickup
BEIJING (Reuters) - Activity in China's services sector expanded at the fastest pace in six months in September as demand grew, cementing a modest pickup in the world's second-largest economy.
The official purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the non-manufacturing sector rose to 55.4 in September - the highest reading since March - from 53.9 in August, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Thursday.
A reading above 50 indicates activity in the sector is accelerating, while one below 50 indicates it is slowing.
The upbeat reading on China's services sector activity helped market sentiment. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI gained 0.8 percent and MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was up 0.7 percent while the Australian dollar also got a small lift.
The sub-index measuring new orders, from both home and abroad, rose to 53.4 in September from 50.9 in August, while input prices and services charges eased, the survey showed.
The services industry, which has so far weathered the global slowdown much better than the factory sector, is an increasingly important pillar in China's economy, especially as the government seeks to expand domestic consumption to drive growth.
Services accounted for about 45 percent of the economy in 2012 and is the biggest employer in China.
China has unveiled plans to open up its largely sheltered services sector to foreign competition and to test bold financial reforms in a new free trade zone in Shanghai.
The survey followed a pair of PMIs which showed slower than expected expansion in activity China's factory sector in September, with the official manufacturing PMI edging up to 51.1 from 51.0 in August, while the final HSBC PMI inched up to 50.2 from August's 50.1. Continued...