Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed last month, suggesting the world’s second-largest economy is still losing momentum and adding pressure on authorities to ramp up stimulus measures after unexpectedly cutting interest rates last month.
After saying for months that China does not need any big economic stimulus, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) surprised financial markets by lowering rates on Nov. 21 to shore up growth. Analysts see more moves in coming months if the economy continues to stumble.
“The PBOC’s rate cut appears to have failed to improve sentiment, and we see little improvement in activity indicators in November,” ANZ said in a research note.
“In order to maintain growth for the whole year at about 7.5 percent [the official target], we believe that Chinese authorities will intensify easing efforts this month to accelerate growth momentum,” ANZ said.
The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) eased to an eight-month low of 50.3 last month, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday, still indicating a modest expansion in activity, but below forecasts for 50.6 and October’s 50.8.
The official PMI survey, which is biased towards large, state-owned factories, showed that demand for Chinese goods was stronger in China than abroad. New export orders contracted.
A similar private survey found growth at Chinese factories stalled last month. The final HSBC/Markit China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index edged down to 50 last month, a six-month low and right on the boom-bust 50-point level that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
The reading was unchanged from a preliminary “flash” figure and down from the final 50.4 in October.
The HSBC survey focuses more on smaller firms, which are facing more stresses as cooling demand cuts into sales and rising borrowing costs make it tougher to pay off debts, a point the central bank stressed when it eased rates.
The gloomy reports reinforce expectations that China’s economy has lost steam despite a flurry of measures to lift growth, fueling bets that more policy loosening is in the cards, either in the form of more rate cuts or reductions in the amount of reserves banks must hold to encourage them to lend.
Hurt by a sagging property market, unsteady exports and cooling domestic demand and investment, China’s growth is expected to slow to a 24-year low of 7.4 percent this year, though the fourth quarter is shaping up to be possibly weaker than earlier thought.
Growth is expected to cool further to 7.1 percent next year, a Reuters poll showed.
Sources familiar with China’s policy-making said leaders are prepared to lower rates again and loosen lending curbs on concerns that falling prices could cause a spike in bad loans, business failures and job losses.
Prior to the rate cut, some policymakers had feared growth was on the verge of slipping below 7 percent, a level not seen since the global financial crisis.
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