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Strict China Lockdowns Could Cut Back Factory Activity in April

China’s manufacturing PMI may have slipped to 48.0 in April, the lowest since February 2020, and below 49.5 in March, a median forecast of 26 economists showed


Workers produce washing machine parts
Workers produce washing machine parts at a factory in Nanjing. The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, and its sibling survey for the services sector, will be released on Saturday. File photo: AFP.

 

The worsening Covid-19 situation in China and heightened caution in its wake may drag down factory output in April as strict curbs throttle production and disrupt supply chains, a poll showed.

China’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index is likely to have slipped to 48.0 in April, the lowest since February 2020, and below 49.5 in March, a median forecast of 26 economists polled by Reuters showed on Friday.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction from the previous month, while one above that suggests expansion.

Analysts see the deteriorating Covid situation and the lockdown of the mega-city of Shanghai that lasted throughout April drove the decline in activity.

Electric car maker Tesla on Wednesday flagged a temporary fall in production due to China’s curbs after it said last week it had lost about a month of build volume out of its Shanghai factory due to the shutdowns.

The full and partial lockdowns in key manufacturing hubs including Shanghai, Suzhou and Ningbo in April has disrupted domestic supply chains, analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note.

“The lockdown impact on the manufacturing sector would be more than headline PMI shows, given the unwarranted support from longer supplier delivery time amid road logistics disruptions,” Morgan Stanley analysts said.

China has vowed to tackle bottlenecks in supply chains affected by Covid by easing congestion at ports and airports and restoring delivery services, according to a State Council meeting chaired by premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday, state TV reported.

Even as Covid cases in Shanghai declined in recent days, the capital city of Beijing is grappling with fresh outbreaks, leading to mass testing and mobility curbs in some parts of the city.

Nomura analysts forecast China’s gross domestic product growth in the second quarter to be 1.8% year-on-year.

The official PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, and its sibling survey for the services sector, will be released on Saturday.

The private-sector Caixin manufacturing PMI, which focuses more on small firms and coastal regions, will be published on the same day. Analysts expect its headline reading will ease to 47.0 from 48.1 the previous month.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean OMeara

 

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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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