China’s manufacturing gauge shows first contraction since early 2020

BEIJING – An official gauge of Chinese factory activity fell into contractionary territory in September for the first time since February 2020, when the world’s second-largest economy was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 49.6 in September, from 50.1 in August, the National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.

That figure, lower than the median forecast of 50.1 from economists polled by The Wall Street Journal, marked the end of 18 straight months of booming activity as the economy faces heightened headwinds from an electricity crisis and a real estate slowdown.

A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing activity, while a value below 50 means a contraction.

The statistics bureau said the industrial production sub-index fell into contracting territory, to 49.5, for the first time since February last year.

The sub-index measuring total new orders fell to 49.3 from 49.6 in August, remaining in contraction territory for two consecutive months. New export orders fell further to 46.2 from 46.7 in August, remaining in contraction territory for five consecutive months, official data showed.

Meanwhile, China’s official non-manufacturing PMI rebounded to 53.2 in September, from 47.5 in August, as the new wave of coronavirus infections was quickly brought under control.

Chinese service industries have been hit hard by the variant of the delta coronavirus. The sub-index that tracks the service sector improved to 52.4 from 45.2 in August, while the sub-index measuring construction activity fell to 57.5 from 60.5, according to the statistics office.

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