|A welder at a construction site in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, on Thursday. A gauge of China's manufacturing sector released on Friday suggests the industry continued to expand in February. (China Daily/Zheng Haiyan)|
The Purchasing Managers' Index, a leading economic indicator showing operational activities in the manufacturing sector, dropped to a five-month low of 50.1 in February, compared with 50.4 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reported on Friday.
The 50-level is the boundary separating expansion from contraction.
HSBC Holdings Plc also released the manufacturing PMI for February based on its own survey. A reading of 50.4, a fall from 52.3 in January, showed the same moderating trend in economic growth.
"It doesn't signal that China's recovery is losing steam, given the greater volatility of readings around the Chinese New Year period," said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC.
A statement from the federation said China's industrial production is stable, with enterprises optimistic on future development. "On the whole, the economic growth momentum remains sound," it said.
The official statistics showed that new orders and export orders retreated last month, due to weakened demand.
The bureau said the sub-index for new orders dropped to 50.1 from 51.6 in January, while the reading for export orders fell to 47.3, a drop of 1.2 points from a month earlier.
Zhang Liqun, an analyst with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said:"Export orders have fallen for three consecutive months ... showing the uncertainty in overseas markets.
Jiang Yongzhong, head of the Chamber of Commerce for Wenzhou Businessmen in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, said: "The seemingly recovering global economy has brought no obvious changes to struggling businesses in Jinhua after Spring Festival compared to the past year, causing the majority of small businesses to suffer great losses."