Business activity accelerates, PMI data show

Huang Yixuan
The Caixin China Composite Purchasing Managers' Index, which covers both manufacturing and services, jumped by 1.2 points to 53.2 in November.
Huang Yixuan

Overall business activity in China expanded at the quickest pace in November since March 2018, a recent private report said.

The Caixin China Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which covers both manufacturing and services, jumped by 1.2 points to 53.2 in November, signaling a solid increase in total business activity across China last month.

"The upturn was driven by strong performances across both the manufacturing and service sectors," according to a report by Caixin magazine and research firm Markit.

Notably, service providers registered a solid and accelerated increase in activity midway through the final quarter of 2019, which was highlighted by the seasonally-adjusted Chinese Services Business Activity Index rising from 51.1 in October to a seven-month high of 53.5 in November.

Companies widely commented on planned expansions, new projects and an improvement in overall demand conditions, according to the report. At the same time, goods producers noted a marked increase in production, with the rate of growth little-changed from October’s recent high. 

Of note, in the service sector, new business expanded solidly overall, with the rate of growth picking up since October.

"The gauge for new business picked up from a recent low in October with a solid rebound in the measure for new export business, indicating domestic and foreign demand both improved," said Zhong Zhengsheng, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, in regard to the Caixin Services PMI data.

A steep increase in new work was also seen across the manufacturing sector, albeit one that was softer than in the previous month. At the composite level, new orders expanded at the fastest rate since February 2018.

The amount of new orders received from abroad, meanwhile, also continued to increase across China during November. 

Service providers recorded a steep and accelerated rise in new export sales, with the pace of expansion picking up to a four-month high. Manufacturing firms registered a further marginal rise in new business from overseas, the report showed. Measured across both monitored sectors, the amount of new work received from foreign clients rose at a modest pace that was identical to that seen in October.

The report also highlighted that sector data for outstanding workloads showed divergent trends, with backlogs rising at manufacturers but falling at services companies.

In the manufacturing sector, the rate of accumulation was solid overall, despite easing to a three-month low. In contrast, service providers registered the first decline in unfinished business since August, albeit only slight. Consequently, composite outstanding business rose at a marginal pace that was the weakest for three months.

Business confidence across China regarding output over the next year, however, remained subdued in November, with the overall level of positive sentiment edging down since October, "reflecting the impact from uncertainties generated by the China-US trade conflicts," according to Zhong. "That will restrain a recovery in economic growth."

Weaker optimism was driven by the manufacturing sector, which saw expectations soften to a five-month low. Although services companies expressed a stronger level of confidence compared to October, sentiment was still notably softer than the historical trend.

"The trade dispute is the major reason behind slowing economic growth this year, and will become a key factor affecting the stabilization and recovery of China’s economy next year," Zhong said.

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