HONG KONG – Growth in China's sprawling manufacturing industry unexpectedly ticked higher in September, according to a report Tuesday, easing concerns about the No. 2 economy's recovery.
HSBC's purchasing manager index edged up to 50.5 this month from 50.2 in August, based on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction.
Analysts had expected the reading to fall for a second month, dragged down by the slumping property market. August's PMI reading was a sharp fall from the 18-month high of 51.7 reached in July.
The modestly upbeat number comes after an official report earlier this month showed China's factory output slowed sharply in August, which sparked fears momentum was fading and prompted some analysts to lower their full-year economic growth forecasts.
China's economic growth edged up in the April-June quarter to 7.5 percent after policymakers rolled out a batch of relief measures aimed at areas including railways and public housing. But analysts say further increments in growth will be hard to achieve without more government spending.
"The picture is mixed," with the report's sub-indexes for new orders and new export orders improving but employment falling, said HSBC's chief China economist, Qu Hongbin.
"Overall the data still point to modest expansion. The property sector remains the biggest downside risk to growth," he said.
The report covered responses from 85-90 percent of 420 factories. The final version is due at the end of September.