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AFP
April 1, 2020

China’s factory activity rebounds in March

Business

AFP
April 1, 2020

Beijing: Chinese factory activity saw surprise growth in March as businesses grind back to work following a lengthy shutdown, but analysts said the economy faces a challenging recovery as external demand is devastated by coronavirus, while the World Bank warned growth could screech to a halt.

China is slowly returning to life after months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the deadly COVID-19, which put millions of people into virtual house arrest and brought economic activity to a near standstill.

The strict measures saw a closely watched gauge of manufacturing plunge to its lowest level on record in February while industrial production contracted for the first time in 30 years as the country essentially shut up shop.

But on Tuesday, the Purchasing Managers´ Index (PMI) came in well above expectations, hitting 52.0 for March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). That is well above the 35.7 from the month before and beat forecasts of 44.8 in a Bloomberg survey. Anything above 50 is considered expansion.

The NBS said the number "reflects that over half of surveyed companies had improvements in their resumption of work and production from the month before". However it added that "it does not represent that our country´s economic operations have returned to normal levels".

Non-manufacturing PMI came in at 52.3, also well above analyst predictions. NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said despite the rebound in the manufacturing PMI "there remains relatively large pressure on enterprises´ production and operations".

A larger proportion of firms face tight funding and insufficient market demand this month, Zhao added, with "new severe challenges" ahead as the virus sweeps the planet, dragging down trade growth.

Analysts expect the PMI to fall back into contraction territory next month. The World Bank cautioned Tuesday that the global economic fallout could see China´s economic growth slump to 2.3 percent this year, from 6.1 percent in 2019.