The Chinese services purchasing managers' index came in at 50.0 for July, its lowest reading since data collation began in November 2005.
According to research by HSBC and Markit, the sector was stagnant as a result of slowing market conditions in the property sector.
Any reading above 50.0 indicates growth, and this is the first time the figure has touched the 50 mark (see graph).
Manufacturing numbers came in at a 16-month high, slightly tempering the bearish services data.
The headline HSBC China Services PMI came in at 50.0 in July, the lowest reading since the series began in November 2005. Both the new business and outstanding business indices declined from their levels in June. The weakness in the headline number likely reflects the impact of the ongoing property slowdown in many cities as property related activity, such as agencies and residential services, see less business.
The latest expansion of composite output was led by manufacturers, as business activity at service providers was unchanged from the previous month. Furthermore, it was the strongest expansion of manufacturing output in 16 months.