Operating conditions faced by Chinese goods producers continued to deteriorate in October, albeit at the weakest rate in four months. Total new business declined only modestly, helped in part by a renewed increased in new export orders. This in turn contributed to softer contractions of output and employment in October. Meanwhile, purchasing activity and inventories of inputs continued to fall amid reports of lower production requirements. Widespread evidence of reduced raw material costs led to a further marked decline in cost burdens, which in turn were passed onto clients in the form of lower selling prices.
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the PurchasIng Managers’ Index™ (PMI™) posted 48.3 in October, up from 47.2 in September. Operating conditions have now worsened in each of the past eight months, though the latest deterioration was the weakest since June.
Total new business placed at Chinese goods producers declined for the fourth month in a row in October. That said, the rate contraction eased since September’s recent record and was only modest. Softer domestic demand appeared to be a key factor weighing on overall new work as new export business increased for the first time since June, albeit marginally.
Nonetheless, a further decline in overall new orders led firms to cut their production schedules again in October. However, the rate of reduction also eased since September and was moderate overall.
Manufacturing employment declined in October, thereby extending the current sequence of job shedding to two years. That said, the rate of reduction was the weakest seen in three months. Anecdotal evidence suggested that some companies cut their payroll numbers as a result of company down-sizing policies and the non-replacement of voluntary leavers. Lower staffing levels and reduced output contributed to the sixth successive monthly increase in unfinished business. However, the rate of backlog accumulation remained marginal overall.
As has been the case since July, Chinese manufacturers cut back on their purchasing activity in October. Furthermore, the rate of reduction was little-changed since September and marked overall. This led to a further modest fall in inventories of purchases in October. Meanwhile, fewer sales led to an increase in stocks of finished goods for the third successive month, though the rate of accumulation weakened to a marginal pace.
Average cost burdens in China’s manufacturing sector fell for the fifteenth straight month in October. Despite easing since September, the rate of deflation remained sharp. Panellists overwhelmingly linked lower input costs to reduced prices for a broad range of raw materials, with metals mentioned in particular. As part of efforts to boost customer demand, companies generally passed on their savings in the form of lower selling prices. Moreover, the pace of discounting remained solid overall.
China’s official manufacturing PMI, released on Sunday, came in at a lower-than-expected at 49.8—which was also in contraction territory and unchanged from a month earlier.
Compared with the government survey, Caixin PMI gives a greater weighting to smaller, export-led companies. The official measure has a greater proportion of large state-owned firms.
The official non-manufacturing PMI, a barometer of services and construction, fell to 53.1 from 53.4 in September, the weakest since December 2008.
“Big companies are stabilizing, while smaller ones continue to perform below the contraction-expansion line,” Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at NBS, wrote in a statement interpreting the official PMI data on Sunday. “The percentage of small companies facing a financial strain is considerably higher than that of bigger companies.” (…)
The employment gauges of both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors remained mired in contraction zone, Sunday’s report showed. China’s survey-based unemployment rate picked up slightly to around 5.2 percent in September, while a ratio of job supply and demand rose in the third quarter. (Bloomberg)