China’s manufacturing activity in May contracted at a slower pace than the previous month, official data showed, as a slight easing of restrictions on factories lessened the impact of strict lockdowns across the country.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 49.6, just below the 50-point threshold that separates contraction from expansion but beating the 48.0 forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg.

China’s economy has been hammered by strict lockdown restrictions, leading Premier Li Keqiang to issue a stark warning that the country might struggle post growth this quarter.

The latest data suggested that while the manufacturing sector was still contracting, the pace of that contraction had been slowed by an uptick in new orders and reduced delivery times, suggesting that demand had strengthened and the time taken for supplies to reach manufacturers had fallen.

All of the subindices of the official PMI, however, remained in contraction territory, even the ones that improved compared with the previous month.

“This shows that there has been some degree of recovery in manufacturing production and demand but that the recovery momentum still needs strengthening,” said Zhao Qinghe, senior statistician at the National Bureau of Statistics, which compiles the PMI.

By 4difm

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