Activity in China's manufacturing sector contracted this month, a survey from HSBC bank showed on Thursday, indicating a weak start to the year for the world's second biggest economy.
The final Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in January from 50.5 in December, its lowest level in six months and compared with a flash estimate of 49.6 released last week.
The number is below the 50-level that separates contraction from expansion.
"Within the week, it [the PMI] didn't plunge further from our preliminary reading but it is below 50," said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics, managing director at HSBC.
"We are starting the year on weak footing. Businesses are contracting even in the run up to Chinese New Year so coming back from the holidays next week, I would be curious to see whether factories actually fire up again or if they take another leg lower," he added.