BEIJING: China's factory activity decreased in March, official data showed on Thursday, as the country's worst COVID- 19 outbreak in two years has resulted in sporadic lock-downs and factory closures.
The PMI, a key measure of manufacturing activity, fell to 49.5, just below the 50 point mark that separates growth from contraction, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
It was the first contraction in five months and was lower than expectations from the economists polled by Bloomberg.
The fall comes as the authorities struggle to stamp out coronaviruses outbreaks with restrictions on key manufacturing hubs such as Changchun in the south and Shenzhen in the northeast.
Clustered outbreaks have occurred in many places in China recently, according to NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe.
He said that the production and operation activities of Chinese enterprises have been affected by a significant increase in international geopolitical instability.
China has recorded thousands of virus cases every day for weeks after nearly two years of extinguishing almost all infections within its borders.
It has rattled off its zero-COVID strategy.
Some companies have temporarily reduced or stopped production because of COVID 19.
The PMI for non-manufacturing plunged to 48.4 from 51.6, as the service industry was hit badly by the outbreak.