February Caixin manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index

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A worker checks water meters at a water meter plant on November 30, 2018 in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province of China.

A private survey on China’s manufacturing sector showed Friday that factory activity shrank for a third straight month in February.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in 49.9 for February.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the Caixin PMI reading to edge up to 48.5 in February from January’s 48.3.

A reading below 50 signals contraction, while a reading above that level indicates expansion.

The PMI is a survey of businesses about the operating environment. Such data offer a first glimpse into what’s happening in the economy, as they are usually among the first major economic indicators released each month.

The results of the private survey came on the heels of official PMI China released on Thursday which showed manufacturing activity fell for the third straight month, dropping to 49.2 in February from 49.5 in January, according to data released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Investors have been closely watching economic indicators from the world’s second-largest economy for signs of trouble amid domestic headwinds and the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute.

The manufacturing data come days before China’s annual meeting of parliament which starts on March 5. Top officials are widely expected to announce more support measures such as sweeping tax cuts to reduce the strains on the economy.

Chinese leaders will also reveal Beijing’s key economic and financial targets for the year which may provide clues on their future policy stance.

Actual growth in the world’s second-largest economy cooled to 6.6 percent in 2018 — the slowest in 28 years — from 6.8 percent in 2017.

— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee and Reuters contributed to this report.

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