The Caixin Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in weaker than expected, spurring fresh fears over China's economic growth and sending markets around the region lower.
The manufacturing PMI fell to 48.2 in December, from 48.6 in November, contracting for a tenth month and coming in below a Reuters poll forecast for 49.0. Levels below 50 indicate contraction. The Caixin PMI is a closely-watched gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity, which focuses on smaller and medium-sized companies, filling a niche that isn't covered by the official data.
"Data suggested that client demand was weak both at home and abroad, with new export business falling for the first time in three months in December," Markit, which compiles the survey, said in a release. "As a result, manufacturers continued to trim their staff numbers and reduce their purchasing activity in line with lower production requirements."
Markets around the region certainly weren't cheering. The Shanghai Composite was down as much as 4.1 percent after the data's release, while Australian shares erased early gains, with the S&P/ASX 200 index off as much as 0.4 percent. The Australian dollar dropped from around 72.86 U.S. cents before the reading on one of its largest trading partners to as low as 72.05 U.S. cents.
The sharp drop in the Caixin PMI contrasted with a small tick up in the official PMI data released over the weekend, which showed the index was at 49.7 in December, in line with forecasts from a Reuters poll and up a tad from November's 49.6.
The official non-manufacturing PMI, which tracks the services sector, rose to 54.4 in December from 53.6 in November.