Another sign that the slowdown in China’s economy hasn’t yet bottomed out: The official Purchasing Mangers’ Index (PMI) for July unexpectedly fell to 50.1 from June’s 50.2, it’s lowest level in eight months and barely above the 50 level that separates contraction from expansion. Meanwhile HSBC revised its unofficial PMI, which is weighted more towards activity in small and medium sized manufacturing companies. July’s figure was cut to 49.3 from the 49.5 initially reported last week. That is still up from June’s 48.2, however, albeit in contractionary territory.
The government has been easing monetary policy and allowing bank lending to rise to fund brought-forward infrastructure spending, saying growth and stabilizing the economy is its main priority. It does not want to go so far in that stimulative direction, however, that it risks reinflating the property bubble it has worked so hard to deflate gently. It has been refraining from further interest rate cuts and committing to public-sector infrastructure investments it can’t dial back on in the hope that growth will pick up in the third quarter and that it can ride through the short-term unemployment pressures. Numbers like these latest PMIs tax its patience.