Growth in China's manufacturing sector unexpectedly picked up to a four-month high in December as factories cranked up production to meet a surge in new orders, a private business survey showed on Tuesday.
The reading suggested surprising resilience in the world's second-largest economy at the end of the year, though it was somewhat at odds with a much larger official survey on Sunday that pointed to a slight loss of momentum.
The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) rose to 51.5 last month, from 50.8 in November, and far outpacing economists’ expectations for a slight dip to 50.6.
The 50-mark divides expansion from contraction on a monthly basis.
Analysts have expected some softening in China’s manufacturing activity as a punishing crackdown on air pollution, a cooling property market and higher borrowing costs all start to weigh on the world’s second-largest economy.
That view appeared to be borne out by the official data at the weekend which suggested that production expanded in December at a slightly more modest pace.
But Caixin’s findings showed output grew at the fastest pace in three months, bolstered by improving demand.
Total new orders at home and from abroad rose at the strongest pace since August, with the sub-index jumping to 53.0 in December from 51.8 the previous month.
The Caixin survey tends to focus on small and mid-sized firms which are believed to be more export-oriented.