More manufacturing activity reported in March

New numbers indicate that China’s manufacturing sector is emerging, slowly, from the country’s near-complete economic lockdown in February. Per CNBC:

China on Tuesday said the official Purchasing Manager’s Index for March was 52.0, beating expectations for an economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the official PMI to come in at 45 for the month of March.

In February, the official PMI hit a record low of 35.7.

PMI readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below that level signal contraction.

Put into context by the Financial Times (paywall): A “reading of 52 after such a dismal month is hardly spectacular. It just means that activity for some fortunate firms is on the mend.”

“It normally takes at least three consecutive months of positive PMI readings to indicate that the economic trend has really improved,” Simon Rabinovitch, a correspondent for the Economist, says.

“Other, more-concrete economic indicators for March will likely show steep year-over-year declines when they are released in the coming days, some analysts said,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “These include figures on foreign trade, industrial output, investment and consumption in the world’s second-largest economy.”

“Maintaining the original target of 6% GDP growth is not possible,” according to Mǎ Jùn 马骏, an important adviser to the People’s Bank of China, per the Economic Daily (in Chinese). The SCMP says that this is not new for Ma, who has “long called for Beijing to give up its GDP target, saying as early as 2017 that China should set a target around its jobless rate instead.”

Perhaps this is the year Beijing will listen?

—Lucas Niewenhuis