BEIJING -- Manufacturing activity in China slowed in April due to sluggish foreign demand, HSBC said Tuesday, in a sign of further weakness in the world's second-largest economy.
The British banking giant's preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) decelerated to 50.5 this month from a final 51.6 in March.
The index, compiled by information services provider Markit and released by HSBC, tracks manufacturing activity and is a closely watched barometer of the health of the economy.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion while anything below points to contraction.
The April preliminary result came in lower on the back of decreasing new export orders and employment, according to the bank. The final result will be announced on May 2, HSBC said.
"New export orders contracted after a temporary rebound in March, suggesting external demand for China's exporters remains weak," Qu Hongbin, a Hong Kong-based economist with HSBC, said in a release.
"Beijing is expected to respond strongly to sustain the economic recovery by increasing efforts to boost domestic investment and consumption in the coming months."
China's 2012 growth of 7.8% was its slowest in 13 years owing to weakness at home and in overseas markets.
Observers had hoped the Chinese economy would rebound this year and drive growth globally after growth increased 7.9% in the last three months of 2012, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing expansion.
But the government last week announced a surprisingly weak economic growth rate of 7.7% for the first quarter, below market expectations and fuelling fears the recent pick-up is faltering.
The International Monetary Fund last week lowered its forecast for China's growth this year to 8%, while Beijing last month kept its growth target for this year at 7.5%, unchanged from last year's objective.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013