The Caixin China Composite PMI™ data (which covers both manufacturing and services) pointed to a further marked rise in business activity across China in December, with the rate of expansion picking up since the previous month. Moreover, the Composite Output Index posted up from 52.9 in November to a 45-month high of 53.5 at the end of 2016.
China ended 2016 on a positive note, with both manufacturers and service providers seeing stronger increases in business activity compared to November. While manufacturers saw the quickest rate of output expansion for nearly six years, services companies reported the strongest rise in activity for 17 months. The latter was shown by the seasonally adjusted Caixin General Services Business Activity Index rising from 53.1 to 53.4 in December.
Improved rates of new order growth were also seen across both monitored sectors in December. The pace of new business expansion accelerated to its strongest since July 2014 at manufacturing companies amid reports of improving client demand. At the same time, growth in new work at services companies quickened to a 17-month record. Subsequently, the rate of composite new order growth was the fastest since March 2013.
Despite stronger expansions in activity and new work, service providers increased their payrolls at a softer pace in December. Furthermore, the latest increase in staff numbers was the slowest for three months and modest overall. Meanwhile, job shedding persisted across China’s manufacturing sector, though the rate of reduction was little-changed from November. At the composite level, employment fell slightly in December after broadly stabilising in the previous month.
Following on from fractional increases during each of the prior two months, the amount of backlogged work at Chinese services companies was broadly unchanged in December. In contrast, manufacturing firms saw a solid increase in unfinished workloads, with the rate of accumulation the fastest since July. This led composite outstanding business to rise at the quickest pace since March 2011.
Average input costs rose at steeper rates across both manufacturing and services sectors at the end of 2016. Manufacturers noted the fastest increase in cost burdens since March 2013, while service sector input costs rose at the quickest rate in nearly two years. Companies operating in both sectors suggested that higher raw material costs had underpinned the latest increase in input prices. As a result, overall input prices rose at the most marked pace for 69 months.
Services companies raised their prices charged only slightly in December, amid reports that competitive market pressures had restricted their ability to fully pass on higher input costs. Meanwhile, manufacturers increased their selling prices sharply, despite the rate of inflation softening from the previous month. Consequently, composite prices charged rose at a slower rate than in November, but the latest increase was nonetheless one of the steepest seen since early 2011.
Services companies were generally upbeat towards their growth prospects in 2017. Moreover, the degree of optimism reached a four-month high, with a number of companies linking confidence to forecasts of improving market conditions and company expansions.
Manufacturing companies in China reported the strongest upturn in operating conditions since January 2013 at the end of 2016. Production expanded at the fastest pace in nearly six years, supported by a solid increase in total new work. As a result, companies raised their purchasing activity at a quicker rate than in November, which led to a renewed increase in stocks of inputs.
However, employment continued to decline, as companies made efforts to reduce their costs. Nonetheless, input price inflation picked up to its sharpest since early 2011 amid reports of higher raw material costs, which prompted firms to raise their selling prices at a marked rate.
The seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI™) picked up from 50.9 in November to 51.9 at the end of 2016. Although modest overall, the latest reading pointed to the fastest rate of improvement in the health of the sector since January 2013.
A further rise in production at Chinese manufacturers supported the higher PMI reading in December. Notably, the rate of output growth accelerated to a 71-month high, with a number of panellists commenting on stronger underlying demand and new client wins.
This was highlighted by a sustained increase in new business during December. As was the case for output, the rate of new order book expansion accelerated since November, and was the strongest since July 2014. Data indicated that improved domestic demand was the key driver of
new business growth, however, as new export sales were unchanged in December.
Greater intakes of new work imparted further pressure on operating capacity in December, with backlogs of work increasing for the tenth month in a row. Moreover, the rate of accumulation was the strongest since July. There were also reports that fewer workers had also contributed to higher amounts of unfinished work.
Chinese manufacturers reduced their workforce numbers for the thirty-eighth month running, though the rate of job shedding was moderate overall. A number of companies mentioned that efforts to reduce their costs had underpinned the latest fall in staff numbers.
Higher amounts of new work led firms to raise their input buying again in December, and at the quickest rate in 29 months. As a result, stocks of purchases rose for the first time since September, albeit only slightly. Meanwhile, inventories of finished items continued to accumulate at a marginal pace.
Stronger demand for inputs led to a further lengthening of average delivery times, as some firms commented on shortages at suppliers. Notably, the rate of deterioration in vendor performance was the fastest in eight months. Inflationary pressures remained sharp in December, with average input prices rising at the fastest rate since March 2011. Output charges also rose sharply, despite the rate of increase softening slightly since November’s 69-month record.
Chinese manufacturing production continued to expand at a robust pace in November,
despite the rate of growth easing since October’s five-and-a-half year peak. At the same time,
companies reported a softer expansion of total new orders, while new export work was
broadly stable after a slight fall in October.
Meanwhile, cost-cutting initiatives underpinned a further fall in staff numbers, though the rate of job shedding was the slowest seen in a year-and-a-half. November also saw a sharp pick up in inflationary pressures, with both input costs and prices charged rising at the fastest rates since early-2011.
At 50.9 in November, the seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI™) fell from a 27-month high of 51.2 in October, to signal a marginal improvement in overall operating conditions. Nonetheless, the health of the sector has now strengthened in each of the past three months,
which marks the longest period of improvement since late-2014.
Chinese manufacturers noted a further rise in production volumes during November, stretching the current sequence of expansion to five months. Though solid overall, the rate of output growth softened since October. Companies that raised production generally commented on
greater intakes of new work. However, in line with the trend for output, the rate of new order book expansion weakened since the previous month and was moderate overall.
A number of panellists suggested that stronger domestic demand was behind the latest rise in new
business. Furthermore, new export work was broadly unchanged in November, after a slight decline in the previous survey period.
Firms continued to increase their purchasing activity in November, with the rate of growth edging up to a four-month high. However, the use of inputs in the production process led to a marginal drop in inventories of purchased items for the second month in a row. In contrast, stocks of finished items rose slightly in November, which some firms attributed to increased output.
A lack of stock at suppliers contributed to a further lengthening of delivery times. That said, the rate at which vendor performance deteriorated was only marginal.
November signalled a further decline in Chinese manufacturing employment, as a number of companies sought to reduce their costs. That said, the rate of job shedding was the weakest seen in 18 months. Nonetheless, a combination of lower staff numbers and increased new work led to a further rise in outstanding business.
Inflationary pressures intensified over the month, with Chinese manufacturers signalling the sharpest increase in cost burdens since March 2011 during November. Anecdotal evidence suggested that higher prices for raw materials, particularly for items such as metals, had raised
overall input costs. In order to help protect their margins, firms generally raised their prices charged, and to the greatest extent since February 2011.