Manufacturing activity across Asia improved in February though the pace remained sluggish, data showed on Thursday, signaling factories in the region were weathering the downturn in developed economies.
Export-driven Asia has been hit hard by the eurozone crisis and weakness in the United States as consumers cut back spending amid deteriorating economic conditions and high unemployment.
In China, the world’s largest economy and second largest exporter, manufacturing expanded for the third straight month while operating conditions in India remained robust, separate purchasing surveys showed.
China’s official purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 51 in February from 50.5 in January, with most sectors showing signs of improvement as export orders picked up. A reading above 50 indicates industry is expanding while a reading below 50 suggests it is contracting.
India had the strongest manufacturing activity in the region, with HSBC’s PMI reaching 56.6 in February, slightly lower than the 57.5 recorded in January, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
Taiwan’s PMI surged to 52.7 in February from 48.9 in January due to increased demand at home and abroad, the British banking giant said. Australia’s PMI was 51.3 in February, slightly down from January but still representing growth, figures from the Australian Industry Group-PwC Australian
Performance of Manufacturing Index show. HSBC said its final reading for China also improved last month though it remained below 50.
“Despite the marginal improvement in the headline PMI... deteriorating external demand is adding more downside risks to growth in the absence of a strong comeback in domestic demand,” HSBC chief economist Qu Hongbin warned. “We expect the (People’s Bank of China) to step up policy easing efforts as inflation pressures recede.”