[BEIJING] Growth in China's immense factory sector stalled in November, with output contracting for the first time in six months, a private survey showed on Thursday, adding to signs that the world's second-largest economy may still be losing traction.
The flash HSBC/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to a six-month low of 50.0 from a final reading of 50.4 in October and well below the 50.3 reading forecast by analysts.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below 50 points to contraction on a monthly basis.
The factory output sub-index fell to 49.5, the first contraction since May.
Overall new orders grew at a slightly better clip but growth in new export orders slowed markedly, the survey showed.
China's cooling property market, erratic foreign demand and overcapacity have weighed on its manufacturing sector and broader economy this year despite a steady stream of stimulus measures.
Most analysts expect further support moves in coming months but are divided over whether Beijing will resort to bolder measures such as interest rate cuts unless conditions threaten to sharply deteriorate.
The PMI report followed other tepid data this week that showed housing prices slid further in most major cities in October and foreign direct investment continued to slide.