By Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2021

BEIJING (AP) - China’s manufacturing activity improved in December but at its weakest rate in three months as the economy recovered from the coronavirus pandemic while its trading partners struggled with rising infections, according to two surveys.

A monthly purchasing managers’ index issued Monday by a business magazine, Caixin, slipped to 53 from November’s 54.9 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity expanding. A separate PMI by an official industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, declined to 51.9 from the previous month’s 52.1.

China is the only major economy on track to record positive economic growth in 2020 while the United States and Europe struggle with rising case numbers that have prompted governments to re-impose travel and business controls.

Sub-indexes of exports and employment in both surveys rose but at a slower rate than December.

“We expect the economic recovery in the post-epidemic era to continue for several months,” economist Wang Zhe of the Caixin Insight Group said in a statement.

Caixin said a sub-indicator of business confidence in its survey dipped to a three-month low.

“We need to pay attention to the mounting pressure on costs” due to higher raw material prices, Wang said. That is “particularly important” as regulators decide how to withdraw economic stimulus.

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