China’s manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in more than a decade in February, as demand recovered after the scrapping of almost three years of zero-Covid curbs.
The official manufacturing sector purchasing managers’ index came in at 52.6, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, well above economists expectations for a reading of 50.5 and the highest level since April 2012. The 50-point mark separates expansion from contraction.
China’s manufacturing sector returned to growth in January after Beijing abandoned its policy of using travel restrictions, quarantine and lockdowns to keep Covid-19 cases to a minimum. That followed nearly three years of on-and-off curbs that hammered demand and output in the world’s second-largest economy.
February’s reading was buoyed by especially strong readings for production and new orders, indicating a recovery in both demand and supply. But the sub-index tracking raw material inventories at factories remained in contraction territory, while a gauge monitoring employment levels notched only a minor expansion.
Also on Wednesday, the Caixin China General Manufacturing PMI, a closely watched private gauge of activity, came in at 51.6, its first expansion in seven months. The official measure puts a greater emphasis on larger, state-owned companies.
China’s rebound contrasted sharply with economic data elsewhere in the region, with Japanese factory activity contracting at its fastest pace in more than two years, according to a private survey.
South Korean exports, meanwhile, notched their fifth consecutive monthly decline.