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China’s May Manufacturing PMI Falls to 49.5, Signaling Economic Slowdown

China's May Manufacturing PMI Falls to 49.5, Signaling Economic Slowdown

China’s May Manufacturing PMI fell to a three-month low of 49.5, down from 50.4 in April, pulling the sector back into contraction territory. This unexpected decline has raised concerns about the health of the world’s second-largest economy, particularly given the recent strength in industrial activity data. The disappointing PMI figures have sparked worries about a potential slowdown in industrial production and overall economic growth.

Weak Orders and Slowing Production Drag Down China’s May Manufacturing PMI

The primary drivers behind the contraction in China’s May Manufacturing PMI were a drop in new orders and new export orders. New orders fell to 49.6, and new export orders dropped to 48.3, both slipping back into contraction after two months of expansion. This decline indicates weakening demand both domestically and internationally, which could have broader implications for the Chinese economy.

China's May Manufacturing PMI Falls to 49.5, Signaling Economic Slowdown

Production also slowed in May, with the production index falling to 50.8, although it remained in expansion territory for the third consecutive month. Employment continued its prolonged contraction, with the employment index at 48.1, marking the 15th consecutive month of decline. This persistent weakness in the labor market suggests ongoing challenges for the manufacturing sector.

Price Pressures Amidst Manufacturing Weakness

Despite the contraction in China’s May Manufacturing PMI, there were notable increases in raw material purchase prices and ex-factory prices. The raw material purchase price index rose to 56.9, while the ex-factory price index hit 50.4, both reaching an eight-month high. These price increases could signal rising inflationary pressures in the second half of the year, adding another layer of complexity to China’s economic landscape.

Performance by Firm Size

China’s May Manufacturing PMI data also revealed varying performance across different firm sizes. Large firms showed resilience, with their PMI at 50.7, resuming their outperformance. In contrast, medium firms fell back into contraction with a PMI of 49.4, and small firms experienced a sharper decline, with their PMI dropping to 46.7. The private sector’s lack of dynamism has been a persistent issue this year, further dragging down medium and small firms.

Implications for Future Industrial Production

The disappointing data from China’s May Manufacturing PMI serves as a warning signal for upcoming industrial production figures. There is a strong positive correlation between the PMI and industrial production data, suggesting that the slowdown in manufacturing activity could translate into weaker industrial output.

China's May Manufacturing PMI Falls to 49.5, Signaling Economic Slowdown

Given the reliance on industrial activity as a primary growth driver in the first four months of the year amid weaker-than-expected retail sales, this slowdown could pose significant challenges.

Urgency for Policy Intervention

In light of the disappointing China’s May Manufacturing PMI, there may be increased urgency for policymakers to expedite the rollout of supportive measures. Trade-in policies and other initiatives to bolster consumption and investment could be critical to keeping the economy on track to achieve its 5% growth target for the year. The non-manufacturing PMI also disappointed, falling to 51.1 from 51.2, with important subcategories remaining in contraction.


China’s May Manufacturing PMI has cast a shadow over the economic outlook, highlighting weaknesses in new orders, production, and employment within the manufacturing sector. The drop to 49.5 reflects a contraction that could signal broader economic challenges ahead. Policymakers may need to act swiftly to implement measures that support growth and stabilize the economy. As the situation unfolds, close monitoring of industrial production and further economic indicators will be essential to gauge the trajectory of China’s economic recovery.


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