Employees at an automobile factory in Shanghai. File/Reuters
China’s factory activity grew at a slightly slower rate in February as factories closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, a Reuters poll showed, although growth is expected to remain firm, buoyed by an early resumption of production.
The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is expected to dip marginally to 51.1 in February from 51.3 in January, according to a survey by 20 economists. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity on a monthly basis.
Chinese factories typically scale back operations or close for lengthy periods around the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in the middle of February this year.
However, the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the winter had prompted local governments and companies to dissuade workers from travelling back to their hometowns, giving a boost to the earlier-than-usual resumption of production at many factories, analysts say.
“Although government COVID-19 prevention measures may constrain some manufacturing activities in the near-term, the fact that a majority of migrant workers stayed in their workplace cities for the holiday should facilitate an earlier resumption of business activity following the holiday this year,” said analysts at Nomura in a note to client on Thursday.
Wang Zhishen, a migrant worker from Gansu, told Reuters that his factory, a manufacturer of logistics boxes in the manufacturing hub of Dongguan, only closed for three days during the holiday, thanks to overwhelming businesses. Lured by the 1,500-yuan cash subsidy his factory offered, he chose to work through the holiday.
The Chinese economy has largely shaken off the gloom from the COVID-19 health crisis, with consumers opening up their wallets after months of hesitation. Growth is now set to rebound sharply this quarter, also helped by the low base effect of a year ago.
The country has successfully curbed the domestic transmission of the COVID-19 virus in northern China, with the national health authority reporting zero new local cases for the 11th straight day. Cities that were on lockdown have since vowed to push for a work resumption at full speed.
The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, and its sister survey on the services sector, will both be released on Sunday.
The private Caixin manufacturing PMI will be published on Monday. Analysts expect the headline reading will dip slightly to 51.4 from 51.5 in January. (Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Sam Holmes)
China’s gross domestic product (GDP) could expand 8-9% in 2021 as it continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Liu Shijin, a policy adviser to the People’s Bank of China, said on Friday.
This speed of recovery would not mean China has returned to a “high-growth” period, said Liu, as it would be from a low base in 2020, when China’s economy grew 2.3%.
Analysts from HSBC this week forecast that China would grow 8.5% this year, leading the global economic recovery from the pandemic. If 2020 and 2021’s average GDP growth is around 5%, this would be a “not bad” outcome, said Liu, speaking at an online conference.
China is set to release a government work report on March 5 which typically includes a GDP growth target for the year.
Last year’s report did not include one due to uncertainties caused by the coronavirus. Reuters previously reported that 2021’s report will also not set a target.
Meanwhile, China stocks fell sharply on Friday to end the week lower, in line with global markets, with the blue-chip index posting its worst week in 28 months, as a rout in global bonds sent yields flying and dampened appetite for risky assets.
The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 2.4% to 5,336.76, while the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.1% to 3,509.08 points.
For the week, CSI300 slumped 7.7%, its steepest weekly decline since Oct. 12, 2018, while the SSEC dropped 5.1%.
Yields on the 10-year Treasury note eased back to 1.538% from a one-year high of 1.614%, but were still up a 40 basis points for the month in their biggest move since 2016.
Fears over policy tightening and lofty valuations had already pummelled China’s benchmark CSI300 index, which was down nearly 10% from its record high hit earlier in the month, mainly due to heavy selling in high-flying sectors such as consumer, healthcare and new energy firms.
Analysts said the trend of China’s policy tightening is quite evident, though the PBOC would refrain from sudden shifts in order to provide stability to the market.
Adding to the pressure were worries over Sino-US trade relations.
Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden’s top trade nominee, backed tariffs as a “legitimate tool” to counter China’s state-driven economic model and vowed to hold Beijing to its prior commitments.
China’s factory activity picked up pace in June, official data showed on Tuesday, although analysts warned weak global demand and a potential coronavirus resurgence are weighing on its longer-term recovery.
China’s factory activity growth slowed slightly in May as raw materials’ costs grew at their fastest pace in over a decade, weighing on the output of small and export-oriented firms.
China on Friday set a modest annual economic growth target, at above 6%, and pledged to create more jobs in cities than last year, as the world’s second-biggest economy planned a careful course out of a year disrupted by COVID-19.
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