BEIJING - Chinese manufacturing grew at its slowest pace in three months in December, HSBC confirmed on Thursday, as demand for the country's goods eased and adding to concerns about recovery in the world's number two economy.
The bank's final purchasing managers' index (PMI), which tracks manufacturing activity in China's factories and workshops, came in at 50.5 last month, unchanged from a preliminary reading two weeks ago.
The index is a closely watched gauge of the health of the Asian economic giant. A reading above 50 indicates growth, while anything below signals contraction.
The December figure was down from 50.8 in November and marked the weakest growth since September when the reading was 50.2.
Thursday's data came a day after the National Bureau of Statistics announced that its official PMI slowed to 51.0 last month from November's 51.4. That marked the 15th consecutive month of growth, but the first time since June that the figure had dipped from the previous month.
Economists are increasingly concerned that the economy- a key driver of regional and global growth - is slowing again after enjoying pick-up in the middle of last year.
HSBC said new orders, a component of its PMI reading, rose at a fractionally slower pace from November, with business from abroad posting a marginal decline for the first time in four months.
Qu Hongbin, an HSBC economist in Hong Kong, said in a statement accompanying the data that the easing in last month's PMI was mainly due to modest output growth, which weakened from November's eight-month high.
But the fact that the index has sustained a fifth straight expansionary reading suggested the Chinese economy has been holding up well, he said.
"The recovering momentum since August 2013 is continuing into 2014," Qu said.