China’s services sector expands at slower pace

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    A file photo of an employee standing outside an office of an online sales company at night at Galaxy Soho, in Beijing. The Caixin/Markit services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slowed to 52.5 last month from 53.5 in November, but was still higher than an 8-month low hit in October. (Reuters Photo)
    A file photo of an employee standing outside an office of an online sales company at night at Galaxy Soho, in Beijing. The Caixin/Markit services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slowed to 52.5 last month from 53.5 in November, but was still higher than an 8-month low hit in October. (Reuters Photo)

    BEIJING- China’s services sector expanded at a slower pace in December following a strong rebound in the previous month, with business confidence falling to the second lowest on record despite a pick-up in new orders, a private survey showed on Monday.

    The more downbeat reading suggests services companies remain cautious about the outlook for China’s economy despite a flurry of stimulus measures, signs of improvement in the manufacturing sector and a long-awaited US-China trade deal.

    The services sector accounts for more than half of the economy.

    The Caixin/Markit services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slowed to 52.5 last month from 53.5 in November, but was still higher than an 8-month low hit in October.

    The index has stayed above the 50-point margin that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis since late 2005.

    The cooling trend in the private survey echoed that in the official non-manufacturing PMI, published by the National Bureau of Statistics, which fell from November’s eight-month high.

    Beijing has been counting on a strong services sector to cushion a prolonged slowdown in manufacturing and investment and create jobs for workers laid-off in other areas. Economic growth has cooled to near 30-year lows amid sluggish demand at home and abroad.

    “China’s economy is likely to get off to a quick start in 2020, but it will still be constrained by limited demand for the rest of the year,” Zhong Zhengsheng, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, wrote in a note accompanying the Caixin PMI release.

    Services companies surveyed expressed concerns over subdued economic conditions and a lack of staff, the Caixin survey showed. Their expectations regarding the one-year outlook for business activity fell to the second-lowest level since the series began in 2005. – Reuters