Repeats Saturday’s story without changing the text
BEIJING, December 31 (Reuters) – Chinese factory activity shrank for the third consecutive month in December and at the fastest pace in nearly three years as COVID infections swept through production lines across the country after Beijing is steep reversal anti-virus measures.
The Official Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 47.0 of 48.0 in November, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected the PMI to come in at 48.0. The 50 point mark separates contraction from growth on a monthly basis.
The decline was the largest since the early days of the pandemic in February 2020.
The data offered the first official glimpse into the manufacturing sector after China scrapped the world’s toughest COVID restrictions in early December. Cumulative infections likely reached 18.6 million in December, British health data firm Airfinity estimated.
Weaker external demand amid growing fears of a global recession amid rising interest rates, inflation and war in Ukraine could further slow China’s exports, hurt its massive manufacturing sector and hamper a economic recovery.
“Most of the factories I know are way below what they could be at this time of year for next year’s orders. Many of the factories I’ve spoken to are at 50%, some are below 20%,” said Cameron Johnson, partner at Tidalwave. Solutions, a supply chain consulting firm.
“So even if China opens up, manufacturing will still slow down because the rest of the global economy is slowing down. Factories will have workers, but they won’t have orders.”
The NBS said 56.3% of manufacturers surveyed said they were heavily impacted by the outbreak in December, up 15.5 percentage points from the previous month, although most also said they expected that the situation gradually improves.
“Although (the factory PMI) was lower than expected, it is actually difficult for analysts to provide a reasonable forecast given the uncertainties related to the virus over the past month,” said Zhou Hao, chief economist of Guotai Junan International brokerage.
“In general, we believe the worst for the Chinese economy is behind us and a strong economic recovery is ahead.”
The country’s banking and insurance regulator pledged this week to boost financial support for small businesses and private businesses across the country. catering and tourism sectors which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, stressing that a recovery in consumption will be a priority.
The non-manufacturing PMI, which examines service sector activity, fell to 41.6 from 46.7 in November, according to BNS data, also marking the lowest reading since February 2020.
The official composite PMI, which combines manufacturing and services, fell to 42.6 from 47.1.
“The weeks leading up to Chinese New Year are going to remain tough for the services sector as people won’t want to go out and spend more than necessary for fear of catching an infection,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics.
“But the outlook should brighten by the time people return from the Chinese New Year holidays – infections will have receded and a large proportion of people will have recently had COVID and feel they have some degree of immunity.”
(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Joe Cash and Ellen Zhang; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)
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