SHANGHAI – Data from China has the country’s manufacturing industry in positive territory for the first time in nine months.
China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 50.2 for March, not only beating analyst expectations, but also coming in above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction for the first time since last July. In February, the official PMI was 49.0, the lowest reading since 2011.
China’s official services PMI also strengthened from its February reading, rising to 53.8 in March from 52.7 a month earlier.
Data for the month in which the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday falls – in 2016 this was February – is traditionally lower as much of the country shuts down for at least a week, and in many cases two weeks.
Also released today was the Caixin manufacturing PMI survey, which focuses on smaller companies than are covered by the official government data.
The Caixin index had manufacturing PMI for March up to 49.7 from 48.0 in February.
“All categories of the index showed improvement over the previous month,” He Fan, chief economist at Caixin Insight Group, said in a statement accompanying the release.
“The output and new order categories rose above the neutral 50-point level, indicating that the stimulus policies the government has implemented have begun to take hold,” he said, adding that the government needs to continue stimulus measures to prop up market confidence.
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Thursday cut its outlook for China’s sovereign credit rating to negative from stable, pointing to the likelihood that the government’s reform agenda will probably to proceed more slowly than previously expected.
The S&P downgrade seemed to have had an impact on trade in Shanghai for the first half of the day, with the afternoon session seeing a resurgence following the release of stronger-than-expected PMI numbers. The Shanghai composite index finished the day up 0.19 percent. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was holding pretty steady in mid-afternoon trade, gaining 0.05 percent.