Chinese shares fall as manufacturing activity falls to its lowest since 2012

Emma Haslett
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Chinese shares slipped in afternoon trading (Source: Getty)

Shares in China fell overnight after a key manufacturing index fell to its lowest level since mid-2012.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 49.4 in January, from 49.7 the month before - and missing forecasts of 49.6. Any figure below 50 denotes a contraction in the sector.

The Shenzhen Composite index fell 0.93 per cent in late afternoon trading in China, while the Shanghai Composite fell 2.37 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 0.6 per cent.

However, the Caixin manufacturing PMI looked more encouraging, with a reading of 48.4, against expectations of 48.1.

"[The figures] confirm that momentum in Chinese economic activity has continued to weaken into 2016," said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG.

"It is quite concerning that the significant monetary and fiscal stimulus in 2015 has only managed to slow the rate of decline in China’s industrial activity.

"The first quarter of activity is always the weakest in China due to the seasonal disruption of Chinese New Year, and there is the possibility of global markets reacting very negatively when the quarterly data starts filtering out in March and April.

"The big question is how much of this first quarter weakness in China will carry over to the second quarter. It is looking like it will be quite a struggle for China to even hit its lowered growth target of 6.5 per cent for 2016."

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