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China Services Growth At 14-month High

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China's services grew at the fastest pace in over a year in March driven by improved demand, and manufacturing also improved, leading to strongest expansion of the private sector in nine months, survey data from IHS Markit showed on Wednesday.

The Caixin China services Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI advanced to 54.4 in March from 51.1 in February. The reading was the strongest since January 2018.

A reading above 50 suggests growth in the sector.

Survey data from IHS Markit released earlier this week showed that the Chinese manufacturing activity improved for the first time in four months.

The Caixin factory PMI climbed to 50.8 in March from 49.9 in February, marking the strongest reading since August 2018.

The Caixin composite PMI climbed to 52.9 in March from 50.7 in February. The reading was the highest in nine months.

New order growth in the services sector was the quickest in 14 months and demand for overall private sector activity grew at the fastest pace since February 2018.

Export sales in the services sector rose at the second-strongest rate since December 2017, while the growth in foreign demand was modest in manufacturing.

Though jobs in manufacturing grew for the first time in over five years and services registered a modest increase in employment, overall growth in private sector workforce numbers was only slight in March.

The rate of cost inflation in the service sector eased slightly and was moderate. Manufacturers saw the first increase in purchasing costs for four months, albeit marginal.

A number of private sector firms passed on the higher input costs to customers, leading to sustained increase in average selling prices. Firmer client demand also contributed.

Factory-gate inflation was the strongest in five months, while the rate of output price inflation for services firms was largely unchanged from February.

Confidence among services companies rose to the highest level in three months, while the sentiment reached a ten-month high at manufacturers. However, expectations remained weaker than the long-run trends in both sectors.

"In general, China's economic fundamentals recovered in March, with domestic and external demand as well as manufacturing employment improving," Zhengsheng Zhong, Director of Macroeconomic Analysis at CEBM Group, said.

"However, business sentiment has remained cautious, and inflation was subdued."

More evidence is needed to determine whether the Chinese economy has stabilized, Zhong added.

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