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Caixin China manufacturing PMI rebounds in March

BEIJING–A private gauge of China’s manufacturing activity in March rebounded from a record low, in line with official data suggesting early signs of economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Caixin China manufacturing purchasing managers index, which is tilted toward small, private manufacturers, rose to 50.1 in March from 40.3 in February, Caixin Media Co. and research firm Markit said Wednesday. The March result is just above the 50 mark, which separates contraction from expansion.

Output expanded due to easing travel restrictions, but new orders declined, Caixin said, adding new export orders declined notably in March as the virus spreads quickly outside China.

The manufacturing sector faced dual challenges in March as “business resumption was insufficient; and worsening external demand and soft domestic consumer demand restricted production from expanding further,” said Zhong Zhengsheng, an economist at CEBM Group, in a statement accompanying the data.

Meanwhile, employment data signaled a further reduction in headcount, though the rate of decline eased since February, Caixin said, citing a combination of voluntary leavers and employers’ efforts to cut costs.

China’s official manufacturing PMI, which focuses more on large, state-owned firms, jumped to 52.0 in March from a record low of 35.7 in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. The official survey of manufacturers has a much larger sample than the private one.

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