China, the world's second-largest economy, is slowly rebounding after posting some of its weakest growth in decades in 2022. AFP/STR
BEIJING - China's manufacturing activity slowed in March, official figures showed, while growth in the services and construction sectors surged to a 12-year high.
The world's second-largest economy is slowly rebounding after posting some of its weakest growth in decades in 2022.
The official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) -- a key gauge of Chinese factory output -- beat expectations but fell to 51.9 in March, from 52.6 in February, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg News had expected March factory activity to come at 51.6 percent, after February recorded the highest reading in more than a decade as factories returned to normal following a surge in Covid cases.
The official non-manufacturing PMI, which measures growth in the services and construction sectors, rose to 58.2 in March -- the highest since May 2011 -- and up from 56.3 in February.
"The PMI indicates China's economic recovery is on track," said Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.
"The expansion of service sector activities is particularly strong... The strong momentum will likely continue in the coming months."
The country has seen a surge in demand for travel, entertainment and other leisure services that were curbed for nearly three years during the pandemic.
China's new premier Li Qiang said Thursday the economy was showing "strong momentum" despite a challenging global environment, pledging increased support for business.
Beijing has set an economic growth target of around five percent for this year, one of its lowest in decades -- a goal Li has warned will not be "easy".