China’s factory activity expanded at a slower pace and missed forecasts in April as supply bottlenecks and rising costs weighed on production and overseas demand lost momentum. The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) fell to 51.1 in April from 51.9 in March, data from the national Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Friday. It remained above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis but was below the 51.7 expected in a Reuters poll of analysts.
That contrasted with a private-sector survey, also released on Friday, which showed factory activity in April expanded at the fastest pace in four months although businesses in that release also reported a sharp surge in input costs. China’s economic recovery quickened sharply in the first quarter of the year with record growth of 18.3%, shaking off the hit from last year’s Covid-19-induced slump. Analysts now expect the world’s second-largest economy to grow 8.6% in 2021.
The robust economic recovery has outpaced rebounds seen in manufacturing competitors such as India, which are still struggling to contain new waves of coronavirus outbreaks. Overseas demand should also pick up as Covid-19 is brought under control in major markets like the United States and Europe, she said, but chip shortages could continue for several quarters and push up prices of electronic goods. The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, showed businesses again laid off workers in April after increasing hiring the month before for the first time in nearly a year. A sub index for employment slipped to 49.6 from 50.1 in March. A gauge for new export orders stood at 50.4 in April, slipping from 51.2 a month earlier.