China manufacturing activity hits 19-month high: HSBC

China manufacturing activity hits 19-month high: HSBC

BEIJING - China's manufacturing activity surged to a 19-month high in December, British bank HSBC said Monday, in the latest sign of recovery in the world's second-largest economy.

The final purchasing managers' index (PMI) released by the financial giant hit 51.5, up from 50.5 in November when the figure returned to growth after 12 consecutive months of contraction.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the key sector, while one below signals shrinkage.

The December reading was also better than a preliminary 50.9 announced earlier in the month and marked the fourth straight month-on-month improvement.

"Such a momentum is likely to be sustained in the coming months when infrastructure construction runs into full speed and property market conditions stabilise," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's chief economist for China, said in the release.

The index, compiled by information services provider Markit and released by HSBC, tracks manufacturing activity and is a closely watched barometer of the health of the economy.

China's strengthening manufacturing sector, and improvements in areas including broader industrial production and retail sales, have spurred optimism that the country's economic slowdown has bottomed out.

Economic growth in the Asian giant hit a more than three-year low of 7.4 percent in the third quarter to September, though data so far for the fourth quarter has led analysts to expect growth to accelerate.

Qu said that prevailing conditions and continued government policy support should see the economy grow about 8.6 percent in 2013.

The Chinese government has forecast economic growth for 2012 will come in at 7.5 percent, considerably lower than the 9.3 percent recorded in 2011 and 10.4 percent racked up in 2010.

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