FASTEST PACE IN OVER 3 YEARS: China’s factory activity expands

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    Employees work on a production line inside a Dongfeng Honda factory after lockdown measures in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China’s epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, were further eased. (Reuters Photo)

    BEIJING- China’s factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in more than three years in November, while growth in the services sector also hit a multi-year high, as the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus stepped up.

    Upbeat data released on Monday suggests the world’s second-largest economy is on track to become the first to completely shake off the drag from widespread industry shutdowns, with recent production data showing manufacturing now at pre-pandemic levels.

    China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) rose to 52.1 in November from 51.4 in October, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. It was the highest PMI reading since September 2017 and remained above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. It was also higher than the 51.5 median forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

    “The rise in November manufacturing PMI, with broad-based improvements across the sub-indices, suggest the recovery momentum in the industrial sector has become more certain,” Zhang Liqun, analyst at China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.

    “But the results also showed inadequate demand is still a common issue facing firms. We need to consolidate the policy support aimed to expand domestic demand.”

    The robust headline PMI points to solid fourth-quarter growth, which analysts at Nomura expect to quicken to 5.7 percent year-on-year, from 4.9 percent in the third quarter, an impressive turnaround from the deep contraction earlier this year.

    The economy is expected to expand around 2 percent for the full year, the weakest in over three decades but still much stronger than other major economies that are struggling to bring their coronavirus outbreaks under control.

    The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, showed the sub-index for new export orders stood at 51.5 in November, improving further from 51.0 a month earlier. That bodes well for the export sector, which has benefited from strong foreign demand for medical supplies and electronics products.