China's flash PMI falls to 3-month low in Dec, 2013

Updated: 17 Dec 2013
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Activity in China's manufacturing sector has fallen to a three-month low in December, a preliminary survey showed Monday.

The HSBC flash Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 50.5 in December from the previous month's final reading of 50.8, the bank said in a statement sent to the Global Times Monday.

A reading above 50 points to expansion in manufacturing activity, while a figure below 50 indicates contraction.

China's official PMI, which mainly covers large State-owned enterprises, was unchanged in November from an 18-month high of 51.4 registered in October, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The flash December figure from HSBC remains higher than average readings in the third quarter, an indication of a continued mild rebound in the manufacturing sector, Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC, said in the statement. China's GDP growth for the fourth quarter is likely to be around 7.8 percent, according to Qu.

The economy saw an acceleration in its GDP growth to 7.8 percent in the third quarter, up from 7.5 percent in the second quarter, thanks in part to a range of pro-growth policies released by the government.

The final HSBC PMI reading for December is scheduled to be announced on January 2, one day after the announcement of the official PMI data for December.

Market watchers said the lower flash reading adds to a softening growth outlook, with the new leadership pledging resolute reforms of the economy in order to achieve more sustainable growth, rather than focusing on impressive GDP data.

The flash reading is also consistent with market expectations that economic growth momentum has weakened after reaching its annual maximum during the third quarter, Yang Weixiao, a Beijing-based macroeconomic analyst with Lianxun Securities Co, told the Global Times Monday.

The official PMI reading is also expected to trend downward to 50.8 for December, Yang predicted.

In a note sent to the Global Times Monday, Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong, also said the softening trend will continue throughout the first half of next year, "as market interest rates keep rising and pushing up financing costs for corporates."

A statement released Friday after the conclusion of the annual Central Economic Work Conference said that the country will seek reasonable GDP growth, at the same time as striving to enhance the quality and efficiency of economic development while avoiding negative side effects.

"The statement offered fresh signs that the government is preparing to lower its growth target for 2014, leaving more leeway for economic restructuring," Lianxun Securities' Yang said, while noting that significantly slower growth is unlikely.

The target is likely to be 7 to 7.2 percent as the government still has to ensure a bottom line for growth, he said.

However, a report Monday by news portal, which cited an unnamed source, said that a growth target of 7.5 percent for 2014 was agreed on at the annual Central Economic Work Conference, despite suggestions from some that the target should be lowered to 7 percent.

"Historically, the target tends to be on the conservative side and actual growth has always exceeded the target by a wide margin, but it has become clear that achieving 7.5 percent growth is no longer easy for China," Barclays Capital economists Chang Jian and Jerry Peng wrote in a research report sent to the Global Times Monday. 
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