China manufacturing growth falls to eight-month low: govt

BEIJING (AFP, Reuters) - China's manufacturing growth skidded to an eight-month low in November, an official survey showed Monday, signalling further downward pressure on the world's second-largest economy.

China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics came in at 50.3 last month, lower than the 50.8 recorded in October and the weakest since a similar 50.3 reading in March.

The index - which focuses more on larger, state-owned firms - is considered a key indicator of the health of China's economy, a major driver of global growth. A figure above 50 signals expansion, while anything below indicates contraction.

The results came after a closely watched private survey fell to a six-month low and showed manufacturing stagnating.

The final HSBC/Markit China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) edged down to 50 in November, right on the boom-bust 50-point level that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The reading was unchanged from a preliminary "flash" figure and down from the final 50.4 in October.

Output fell to 49.6, the worst since May, as companies scaled back production in the face of "muted growth in new work"and subdued market conditions, HSBC/Markit said.

Export growth, which had strengthened recently, also slackened to a five-month trough, though it still expanded.

The HSBC focuses more on small and medium-sized firms, which are facing more stresses as cooling demand cuts into sales and rising financing costs make it tougher to pay off debts.

China's central bank last month unexpectedly cut benchmark interest rates for the first time in more than two years, as authorities seek to prop up flagging growth.

The cut came after a string of disappointing data showed the Chinese economy is struggling with not just stalling factory growth, but other problems including soft exports and a weakening property market.

China's economy expanded 7.3 per cent in the July-September quarter, down from 7.5 per cent in the previous three months and the slowest since 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.

The People's Bank of China on November 21 lowered its one-year rate for deposits by 25 basis points to 2.75 per cent and its one-year lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6 percent, a statement said.

China's housing prices fell on a monthly basis for the seventh straight month in November, a survey showed Sunday, as the country's property market weighs on growth.