China's factories continue to struggle

Robots are taking over China's factory floors
Robots are taking over China's factory floors

China's all-important factory sector slowed for a third straight month in October, according to an official survey.

The government's purchasing managers' index hit 49.8 in October, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, unchanged from the previous month. Any number below 50 represents a deceleration in the manufacturing sector.

A separate survey conducted by Chinese media group Caixin showed manufacturing PMI at 48.3 in October, an improvement from 47.2 in September. The index has now been below 50 for eight consecutive months.

The official government manufacturing gauge is heavily weighted toward large enterprises, while the Caixin survey taps a smaller sample size and places greater emphasis on smaller firms.

The data underscore rising concerns about the health of the world's second-largest economy. Beijing reported last month that gross domestic product slid to 6.9% in the third quarter, the slowest pace since the financial crisis.

The factory sector, however, showed initial signs of stabilization. The Caixin survey showed that output and new orders picked up during October, and foreign demand appeared to be recovering.

"The PMIs are consistent with the view that conditions, although still subdued, are starting to show signs of improvement," said Julian Evans-Pritchard at Capital Economics.

Looking ahead, many economists expect Beijing to take further stimulus measures before the end of the year.

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