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Improved production bodes well for overall economy, analysts say
Industrial activity maintained a moderate recovery in March, with economic indicators reflecting positive growth.
"The economic environment in Europe seems to have improved, but it has not brought us the sharp increase in orders we had expected for the first quarter," said Zhang Wenhua, owner of a company in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, that exports machinery to Europe.
A bustling textile factory in Huaibei, Anhui province, reflects the growing momentum of China's manufacturing sector. Xie Zhengyi / For China Daily
"We just hope there will be more growth in the next three months," Zhang said.
The purchasing managers index, a measure of economic expansion and contraction, reached 50.9 in March, slightly above the equilibrium mark of 50.
The index rose to an 11-month high after hitting 50.4 in January and 50.1 in February. It has remained above 50 for six consecutive months.
The National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reported on Monday that PMI subindexes for manufacturing output rose to 52.7, overall new orders to 52.3, and export orders to 50.9, the highest since May.
The PMI for small enterprises jumped to 49.3 from 46 in February, reaching a 12-month high, though still in contraction. The PMI for large companies was 51.4, up from 51.3 in February, and that for medium-sized companies was 50.3, up from 48.8 in February.
The slow recovery surprised some analysts, who expected the manufacturing PMI to rise to somewhere around 52 in March as many factories resumed full production after pausing for Chinese New Year in February.
Lu Zhengwei, chief economist of Industrial Bank, said trends will continue toward moderate recovery. China needs to maintain steady macroeconomic policies, "neither too loose nor too tight", Lu said.
The subindex of raw material purchasing prices dropped to 50.6 in March from 55.5 in February, and the raw material inventory also shrank by 2 points to 47.5.
Liu Ligang, chief economist in China with ANZ Banking Group, said Chinese factories' willingness to increase inventories of raw materials was still weak, which is also expected to add downside pressure to global commodity prices.
Liu is worried about the economy's growth momentum.