China factory activity up after five-month slump

AFP || Shining BD

Published: 3/31/2024 5:12:28 AM

Monthly factory activity in China grew for the first time in half a year, official figures showed Sunday, in a positive sign for policymakers seeking to revive the world's second-largest economy.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) -- a key measure of factory output -- came in at 50.8 in March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), up from 49.1 in February.

A PMI figure above 50 indicates an expansion of activity, while one below that indicates a contraction.

The last expansion in China's monthly PMI was in September, with factory activity consistently negative since then, according to NBS data.

A poll by Bloomberg had predicted a return to positive territory in March, though at a more modest level of 50.1.

The increase is an encouraging sign for Beijing, which has struggled to spur an economic rebound since lifting stringent Covid control measures in late 2022.

A highly anticipated rebound has faced hurdles including a sustained crisis in the property sector, high youth unemployment and deflationary pressure.

A global slowdown, meanwhile, is weakening demand for Chinese products overseas.

Beijing announced in early March its goal of achieving five percent annual growth in 2024, a target considered ambitious by many economists.

Authorities have in recent months announced a series of targeted measures and the issuance of sovereign bonds to boost infrastructure spending and revive economic activity -- with mixed results.

In a positive sign, consumer prices edged up in February for the first time since August, bucking an extended stretch of deflation.

China's non-manufacturing PMI -- which takes the services sector into account -- rose higher in March to 53.0, up from 51.4 the previous month, NBS data showed.

The country posted some of its slowest growth in decades last year, strengthening pressure on Beijing to adopt more stimulus measures.

China's gross domestic product grew 5.2 percent in 2023, according to an official figure that many economists consider to be an overestimate.

That figure was the lowest since the 1990s apart from the pandemic years.

Shining BD