Thu, Feb 01, 2018 - Page 10 News List

China’s factory expansion slows

SHORT-LIVED:The curb in heavy industry activity did not hamper China’s economic growth last year, but analysts say declines in export orders could be cause for concern

AFP, BEIJING

China’s manufacturing expansion last month slowed for the second consecutive month as slack demand hit the economy amid efforts to control pollution and reduce overcapacity, official data showed yesterday.

The manufacturing purchasing manager’s index (PMI), a gauge of factory conditions, stood at 51.3 last month, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said, compared with 51.6 in the previous month.

Anything above 50 is considered growth while a figure below that number points to contraction.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a reading of 51.6.

A new composite PMI index covering both manufacturing and services was released yesterday for the first time. It came in at 54.6.

“The manufacturing industry has maintained the momentum of steady expansion,” bureau analyst Zhao Qinghe (趙清河) said in a statement.

The upcoming Lunar New Year holiday boosted manufacturing in consumer goods, including agriculture and sideline occupation food processing, food and beverage, textile and pharmaceutical, Zhao said.

Some industries have entered the slack season, causing moderation in supply and demand. Output and new orders have declined and employment also edged down for the month.

China has curbed activity in heavy industries in the country’s northeast in an effort to reduce surplus capacity and the heavy smog that typically blankets the region during the late autumn and winter months.

In the face of public discontent over chronic pollution, the world’s second-largest economy has signaled that it is willing to tolerate a slowdown in economic growth in exchange for an improved environment.

Despite its battles against polluting factories, China’s economy grew 6.9 percent last year, picking up steam for the first time since 2010.

“Looking ahead, some of the recent weakness in manufacturing may be partially reversed in the coming months as disruptions caused by the anti-pollution campaign fade,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a research note.

“But any rebound is likely to prove short-lived given that the drags on economic activity from slower credit growth and the cooling property market are set to intensify this year,” he said.

ANZ analysts said China’s overall economic policy would not be affected by the PMI data as authorities would continue to focus on deleveraging, debt control and overcapacity reduction.

“What looks worrying to us is not the slight decline in the headline manufacturing PMI in January, but the fall in new export orders,” ANZ said in a note.

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