Manufacturing activity in China contracted for the third straight month in September, HSBC data showed, due to lacklustredemand amid turbulence in the United States and Europe.
The HSBC purchasing managers' index (PMI) stood at 49.9 in September -- the same reading as in August -- up from 49.3 in July, which was the first contraction in a year, the British banking giant said in a statement on Friday.
A reading above 50 indicates the sector is expanding, while a reading below 50 suggests contraction.
The final September gauge was slightly higher than HSBC's preliminary figure of 49.4 released earlier this month, although the index still averaged its lowest quarterly reading since the first quarter of 2009, the statement said.
Output growth was constrained by "lacklustre demand from both domestic and external clients," the statement said, amid deepening economic woes in the United States and Europe -- key buyers of China-made products.
But the reading -- which stayed steady for two months -- showed signs of stabilising, which could help ease fears about a "sharp slowdown" in the world's second largest economy, HSBC chief economist Qu Hongbin said.
"Despite the global slowdown, we expect China's economic growth to hold up at around 8.5-9 percent in the coming years," Qu said in the statement.
China's economy expanded 9.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of this year, slower than the 9.7 percent posted in the first quarter and 9.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The PMI figures also showed input prices, a measure of the cost of raw materials, rose sharply this month, complicating Beijing's efforts to rein in inflation in the world's second-largest economy.