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China growth engine stutters as factories slow down

China growth engine stutters as factories slow down

BEIJING: Growth in China  manufacturing sector slowed in December as a punishing crackdown on air pollution and a cooling property market start to weigh on the world’s second largest economy.

The data suppoSrts the view that the Chinese economy is beginning to gradually lose steam after growing by a forecast-beating 6.9% in the first nine months of the year. However, signs of a sharper slowdown – a major fear among global investors have yet to materialise.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Sunday dipped to 51.6 in December, down from 51.8 in November and in line with forecasts from economists in a Reuters poll. The 50-point level divides growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

The figures showed that China’s full-year 2017 economic growth would be at about 6.9% and 6.5% for 2018, according to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, which compiles the data.

Boosted by hefty government infrastructure spending, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports, China’s manufacturing and industrial firms have driven solid economic growth this year, with their strong appetite for raw materials boosting global commodity prices.

However, a slowdown has started to take hold in the last few months due to a wide-ranging combination of government measures, from a crackdown on smog in some heavily industrialised provinces to continued curbs on the housing market, which are weighing on property investment. Chinese steelmakers in 28 cities have been ordered to curb output between mid-November and mid-March, while a campaign to promote cleaner energy by converting coal to natural gas has also hampered manufacturing activity in some cities, leading to shortages and price rises.