Manufacturing activity in China showed a small uptick last month but slumped in other big Asian economies, surveys said yesterday, as rising prices continue to frustrate regional governments.
However, while Beijing put a stop to shrinking activity the figures also pointed to an uncertain future for exports, a key driver of the world’s No. 2 economy.
The HSBC Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for China bounced back slightly to 49.9 last month, from 49.3 the previous month, according to a statement by the British banking giant.
July’s figure was the lowest in 28 months and the first contraction in a year.
A reading above 50 indicates the sector is expanding, while a reading below 50 suggests contraction.
Separately, the official PMI jumped to 50.9 last month from 50.7 in July, which was the lowest in more than two years, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) said in a statement.
The pick-up in activity, although small, suggests the economy is less likely to grind to a halt, as some had feared.
However, the government index for new export orders fell to 48.3 last month from 50.4 in July, indicating overseas shipments may slow, while the HSBC survey also showed that new foreign business contracted for a fourth month.
“These data confirm our view that China will only see growth moderation in the coming months, rather than a hard landing,” HSBC economist Qu Hongbin (屈宏斌) said in the statement.
Both surveys also showed inflationary pressures — a major bugbear for policymakers — increased last month.
The official input prices sub-index rose to 57.2 last month from 56.3 in July, with raw materials and energy costs leading the rise, while HSBC data showed cost inflation rose at its highest rate in three months.
Beijing has been struggling to tame inflation, which hit a three-year high of 6.5 percent in July, amid fears that rising food and housing costs could trigger social unrest in the country of more than 1.3 billion people.
The government has raised interest rates and tightened lending restrictions numerous times this year to stem a flood of credit in the world’s second largest economy.
In South Korea business conditions turned negative last month for the first time in 10 months because of tepid new orders and rising input costs. HSBC’s PMI for the country fell to 49.7 from 51.3 in July.
Output from Asia’s fourth-largest economy decreased last month due to fewer new orders but backlogs of work and employment rose, which bodes well for the growth of new orders in future, HSBC said.
The news came after Statistics Korea said inflation hit a three-year high of 5.3 percent last month as fresh food costs surged, despite government efforts to curb rising prices.
The rise in the consumer price index (CPI) announced by Statistics Korea was the highest since a 5.6 percent year-on-year increase in August 2008 and compares to a 4.7 percent rise in July.
It was the eighth consecutive month that inflation has breached the central bank’s target range for this year of 2 percent to 4 percent.
According to HSBC, last month’s input price inflation grew at the fastest pace in three months due to higher prices for raw materials. Output prices were also up.
“The global trade cycle is cooling swiftly, to which Korea is especially exposed ... Meanwhile, a jump in headline inflation poses a challenge for monetary officials. But we expect the Bank of Korea to see through this and leave rates on hold next week,” HSBC Global Research said in a note.
The HSBC Taiwan Manufacturing PMI fell to 45.2 last month from 46.1 in July, its lowest reading in 31 months, while Australian manufacturing also slumped for another month because of the surging local dollar, dropping 0.1 points to a limp 43.3.
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