China factory activity grows at slower pace in March

BEIJING (AP): China’s factory activity grew at a slower pace in March but was stronger than expected following the end of anti-virus restrictions, a survey showed Friday.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing and the national statistics agency declined to 51.9 from February’s 52.6 on a 100-point scale. Numbers above 50 show activity increasing.

Sub-measures of production and new orders in the PMI grew at a slower pace. Employment contracted.

Business activity is recovering after the ruling Communist Party ended stringent anti-virus restrictions in early December. That followed a slump in activity that dragged last year’s economic growth to 3%, its second-lowest level since at least the 1970s.

“The economy continues to maintain a recovery trend, but the pace has slowed slightly,” the Federation said in a statement.

Exporters are under pressure from weak U.S. and European demand after the Federal Reserve and other central banks raised interest rates to cool inflation.

Construction has revived following the easing of government controls imposed on the real estate industry to rein in the rise of debt the ruling Communist Party worries is dangerously high. A central bank official said in early March financing conditions for the industry were improving.