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China’s factory activity shrinks as COVID-19 hits economy

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s factory activity shrank in March, official data showed yesterday, as the country’s worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years brought sporadic lockdowns and factory closures.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) – a key gauge of manufacturing activity – slid to 49.5, just below the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

It was the first contraction in five months and was lower than expectations from economists polled by Bloomberg.

The fall comes as authorities struggle to stamp out coronavirus outbreaks with restrictions and lockdowns on key manufacturing hubs such as Shenzhen in the south and Changchun in the northeast.

“Recently, clustered outbreaks have occurred in many places in China,” NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said in a statement yesterday. “Coupled with a significant increase in international geopolitical instability, the production and operation activities of Chinese enterprises have been affected,” he added.

Employees work on an assembly line producing speakers at a factory in Linquan county, Fuyang city. PHOTO: AFP