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China’s factory, services sectors show weakness, need for stimulus

BEIJING: China’s manufacturing activity fell for a fourth straight month in July while the services and construction sectors teetered on the brink of contraction, official surveys showed on Monday (Jul 31), threatening growth prospects for the third quarter.

Construction sector activity for July was its weakest since COVID-19-related workplace disruptions dissipated around February, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

The world’s second-largest economy grew at a slow pace in the second quarter, as demand remained weak at home and abroad, leading the Politburo – a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party – to describe economic recovery as “tortuous”.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) inched up to 49.3 in July from 49.0 in June, staying below the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction.

That indicator last pointed to contraction for more than three consecutive months between May and October 2019, before the pandemic, suggesting that negative sentiment among factory managers had grown particularly persistent.

The non-manufacturing PMI, which incorporates sub-indexes for service sector activity and construction, dropped to 51.5 from June’s 53.2. The sub-index for construction, a large employer amid a broader unemployment crisis, fell from a high of 65.6 in March to 51.2 this month.

“The sharp fall in construction activity is a worrying sign of a potential death spiral in the property sector,” said Xu Tianchen, senior economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“Meanwhile, we’re seeing improvements in inventory levels, suggesting that with destocking nearing its end, China’s manufacturing sector bottomed out in the second quarter,” he added.

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