China's manufacturing activity remained in contraction for a second straight month, a private survey showed on Friday, underscoring the sluggish Chinese economy and adding to the case for further monetary policy easing.
The flash HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in at 49.8, after registering a 49.6 final reading in December, its first contraction in seven months. The 50-point mark separates growth from contraction.
Chinese markets were little changed following the data. The Shanghai Composite index trimmed gains briefly but has since rebounded back to a 0.6 percent gain, while the Hang Seng index held steady at a 1.4 percent rise. The Australian dollar advanced against the U.S. dollar to fetch $0.8050, but has since backed down to trade at $0.8030.