China’s manufacturing activity expansion weakest in four months

BEIJING: China's manufacturing activity expanded at its weakest pace in four months last month as export demand faltered, prompting companies to shed staff more quickly as they looked to cut costs, a private survey showed yesterday.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' index (PMI) fell to 51.0 last month from February's 51.6, countering economists' expectations for a slight uptick to 51.7.

While the index remained above the 50-point mark that divides growth from contraction on a monthly basis, it was the weakest reading since November and signalled only a marginal improvement in operating conditions at the end of the first quarter.

The findings contrasted with official data on Saturday, which showed manufacturing growth picked up more than expected last month in response to stronger domestic and overseas demand.

The two reports often diverge, possibly due to differences in the number and type of businesses surveyed.

The Caixin PMI, which tends to focus on smaller firms, suggested output and new orders grew only modestly last month, with growth in export orders slumping to a 10-month low even as fears grow of a possible trade war between the US and China.

Chinese manufacturers also continued to reduce headcount to cut costs, with the rate of job shedding still modest but the quickest since August, the survey showed. - REUTERS