China’s manufacturing activity remains weak

China’s manufacturing activity remained weak in January amid uncertainties in the global economy, a British bank said Friday.

In a monthly report, HSBC Ltd. said its flash purchasing managers index (PMI) for China’s manufacturing sector came to 48.8 for January, almost steady from 48.7 in December.

The PMI measures the health of a country’s manufacturing sector. A reading of 50 or above represents an expansion of the sector compared to the previous month while a reading of below 50 represents a contraction.

The index has been below the benchmark of 50 since November.

HSBC said that new export orders rebounded to 51.1 in January from 49.7 in December. New orders still stayed in the contractionary zone, although they increased to a three-month high at 49.7 in January from 46.9 in December.

“Despite the modest expansion of new export orders, the overall slowing trend for exports remains intact,” said Qu Hongbin, the chief China economist at HSBC.

China’s annual trade surplus narrowed 14.5 percent on-year to $ 155.14 billion last year, shrinking for three consecutive years from $ 295.47 billion in 2008, $ 196.07 billion in 2009 and $ 183.1 billion in 2010.

Due to weakening external demand and Beijing’s monetary tightening, China’s economic growth slowed in 2011 with the GDP growing 8.9 percent on-year in the October-December period. The economy grew 9.1 percent on-year in the third quarter and 9.5 percent in the second quarter.

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