China February HSBC PMI at seven-month high

Sun Mar 1, 2015 10:58pm EST
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Activity in China's factory sector edged up to a seven-month high in February but export orders shrank and deflationary pressures persisted, a private business survey showed, adding to the view that yet more interest rate cuts will be needed.

Chinese policymakers are embarking on their biggest easing campaign since the depths of the global crisis as the world's second-largest economy is weighed down by a cooling property market, high debt levels and excess factory capacity.

The People's Bank of China cut interest rates on Saturday, in the latest effort to support the economy as its momentum slows. The move was its third major policy easing since late November and came just days before the annual meeting of the country's parliament.

On Monday, a survey showed the HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) climbed to 50.7 in February - the strongest level since July - from 49.7 in January, as overall new orders picked up.

The number was stronger than a preliminary reading of 50.1, which was just above the 50-point level that separates growth in activity from a contraction on a monthly basis.

But even as factory activity picked up slightly, the survey showed manufacturers struggled to cope with erratic export demand and deflationary pressures.

The new export orders sub-index dipped to 48.5 in February, the sharpest contraction in a year, while both input and output prices fell for a seventh month. Manufacturing employment shrank for a 16th month, although the pace of job shedding moderated.

"China's manufacturing sector saw an improvement in overall operating conditions in February, with companies registering the strongest expansion of output since last summer while total new business also rose at a faster rate," said Annabel Fiddes, an economist at Markit.

"However, the renewed fall in new export orders suggests that foreign demand has weakened, while manufacturers continued to cut their staff numbers (albeit fractionally)."   Continued...

 
Employees assemble electronic components along a production line at a factory in Hefei, Anhui province, January 18, 2015.  REUTERS/Stringer