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Earliest China economic data show recovery gathers pace in April

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China's property-led economic rebound gathered pace in April, according to the earliest batch of private indicators for the month.

[BEIJING] China's property-led economic rebound gathered pace in April, according to the earliest batch of private indicators for the month.

Gauges from four providers all increased in April from March, while sub-indexes for employment showed stronger demand for workers. Still, not all the clouds have parted: data tracking the outlook of businesses show companies remain reluctant to invest.

New credit, industrial output, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all picked up and exceeded economists estimates in March, while first-quarter economic growth matched forecasts for the slowest expansion since 2009. Signs the recovery is enduring into the second quarter may entrench a change in forecasts for monetary policy, with analysts already dialing back expectations for additional easing.

Economists now see the central bank keeping rates on hold, leaving the benchmark one-year lending rate at a record low of 4.35 per cent through the third quarter before cutting it to 4.1 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to an April 15-20 survey by Bloomberg.

Here's what the earliest economic tea leaves show for this month: Minxin Gauges Two indexes published by the China Academy of New Supply- side Economics picked up for a second month. The Minxin manufacturing index rose to 46.9, the highest in a year, while the non-manufacturing gauge increased to 44.2 from 40.1 in March. Readings above 50 signal the environment is improving and those below indicate conditions are deteriorating.

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The gauges are based on surveys of more than 4,000 companies by Minsheng Bank and the academy. Sub-indexes tracking employment in manufacturing and services both rose.

"A positive trend of economic recovery has already shown up," Jia Kang, director of the Beijing-based academy, said in a statement. He added that companies still have a relatively cautious outlook, and they look forward to more policy measures to aid growth.

International's business confidence indicator rose to 50.5 in April from 49.9 in March. Sentiment among services companies remained brighter than the mood in manufacturing, according to a statement by the New York-based agency, which surveys Chinese companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.

"The April survey was a little bit more promising, although not unanimously so," Philip Uglow, chief economist of MNI Indicators, said in a statement. He said more firms reported that they need to hire additional workers.

Other data point to a dimmer outlook. MNI's sub-index tracking expectations for future business conditions fell to 45.3, the lowest on record since the start of the data in 2007. "Companies turned pessimistic about the coming three months, which suggests the recovery of the Chinese economy is unlikely to be smooth," Mr Uglow said.

The drop in sales managers reporting weaker activity is bottoming out after a two-year decline, according to World Economics Ltd. While the main gauge was effectively unchanged in April, confidence of sales managers at larger private-sector companies edged up to 51.3 from 51.2 in March, according to the London-based research firm.

The China Satellite Manufacturing Index rose slightly to 48.2 in April from 48 in March, according to San Francisco-based SpaceKnow Inc, which analyzes thousands of industrial facilities using commercial satellite imagery. While an improvement, it's still one of the weakest readings in the past four years. The gauge has only been above 50 once in the past year.


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