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Chinese PMI grows, but analysts are wary

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The activity of Chinese factories continued to grow last month, data showed yesterday, but analysts warned that the outlook remained clouded by battered foreign demand, as the rest of the world struggled to overcome the COVID pandemic- 19.

As the country accelerates its economic output as daily life slowly returns to normal after weeks of tight foreclosures, its crucial markets in the United States and Europe remain virtually closed.

The closely watched Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 50.8, just above the 50 mark between expansion and contraction, but down from the previous month and slightly below expectations.

Photo: EPA-EFE

This is still a significant improvement from the record 35.7 recorded in February, when major cities were forced to close to prevent the spread of disease.

Zhao Qinghe (), senior statistician at the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) who released the data, said demand was picking up at a slower pace than output in industries such as textiles and chemical raw materials.

The spread of the pandemic is accelerating abroad and global economic activity has contracted sharply, he said.

NBS data also revealed that nearly 60% of the companies surveyed reported insufficient orders, and Zhao said that some manufacturing companies reported a sharp drop in newly signed export orders, while some orders that had already started the production had been canceled.

Chinese foreign trade faces greater challenges, he said.

The non-manufacturing PMI stood at 53.2 compared to last month and above analysts’ forecasts.

Zhao said there has been a significant rebound in the restaurant industry, but added that the recovery of work and production in some industries is still lagging behind.

Sectors such as accommodation, culture, sports, entertainment and services to residents have had a greater impact on the epidemic, he said.

Many gymnasiums, cultural centers and cinemas have remained closed for the past month.

Iris Pang (), chief economist of ING Groep NV for Greater China (), said the latest PMI figures indicate that the Chinese recovery trend was still facing uncertainty.

This weakness may last for a long time because the unemployment rate in the west of the world is high, she said. This in turn will affect China’s domestic demand, and therefore the profits of foreign companies.

Nomura analysts said that growth in domestic demand in China could be offset by lower exports, which would keep the PMI figure close to 50.

The expectation of a rapid recovery in China is fading, they said.

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