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Flash manufacturing output index slipped to 51.8 in December from 52.2 in November.
Output, backlogs, input prices, new orders and new export orders were among the constituent elements to grow, while employment and output prices decreased.
The PMI reading is above the average reading for Q3, says Markit, "implying that the recovering trend of the manufacturing sector starting from July still holds up." As a result, Markit expects "China's GDP growth to stabilize at around 7.8% on year in Q4."
Growth in China's industrial production slowed to 10% on year in November from 10.3% in October and just missed consensus of 10.1%.
However, retail sales accelerated to +13.7% from +13.3% and topped forecasts that were also +13.3%.
Urban investment, an indicator of construction spending, +19.9% vs +20.1% and +20%.
The mixed data comes as Chinese officials start an annual central economic work conference, where they will set goals and policies for next year. Last month, the country's leaders agreed on a massive reform program aimed at liberalizing and re-balancing the economy.
China’s CPI will likely break below 3% in December and fluctuate towards mid-2% in Q1, Reorient analyst Steve Wang notes. CPI eased to 3% in Nov. as food inflation slid to 5.9% from 6.5%. "Unless food prices, especially meat and vegetables, surge beyond reason during the coming holiday season... China faces minimal inflation risk in the months ahead."
"Non-food CPI was again a non-event at 1.6%, but the strong housing market is beginning to sting, with rental inflation edging higher to 4.7%, the highest in nearly a year and half," suggesting policymakers will likely maintain existing curbs on property markets in order to stem the spillover effect of high housing prices on inflation.
China's trade surplus increased to the highest level in nearly five years in November, rising to $33.8B from $31.1B in October and easily topping consensus of $21.7B.
Exports climbed 12.7% on year vs +5.6% in October and exceeding forecasts of +7.1%.
Imports grew 5.3% vs +7.6% and +7.2%.
Exports to Europe +18.4% and to the U.S. +17.7%.
"There are signs that the global activity and trade cycle is gaining momentum, driven by the recovery in high income countries, and China's exporters are benefiting from that," says RBS economist Louis Kuijs.
The data is the first in a number of reports due out this week, including inflation, industrial production and retail sales. (PR - use Google to translate)
Very little "China upside" has been priced in, says Goldman analyst Noah Weisberger, noting Asian-focused funds are "significantly underweight" China. His team is forecasting a big 19% gain in Chinese equities traded in Hong Kong next year.
Goldman is pairing its long-China call with a short on copper (JJC) due to "abundant supply and a lack of accelerating demand."
The long/short idea is #4 in Goldman's list of top trade ideas for 2014. Previous ideas are here.
The Chinese yuan has passed the euro to become the second-most used currency in global trade finance, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) says.
The renminbi took an 8.66% share of letters of credit and collections in October vs 6.64% for the euro.
The yuan's rise has been rapid, with its share in January 2012 just 1.89%.
The trend indicates that China's attempts to internationalize the currency, such as loosening forex controls, have been successful. The government intends to take more steps as part of a major economic reform plan.
China's official manufacturing PMI held steady at an 18-month high of 51.4 in November and topped consensus of 51.1.
However, the sub-index for smaller companies dropped to 48.3 from 48.5.
"The momentum we see is state-led and policy-led, and from that perspective, it is a mixed performance," says Conference Board economist Andrew Polk.
Export orders edged up to 50.6 from 50.4 in October. "The export order data suggests that global demand - key to the outlook for China's manufacturing - improved a bit," says RBS economist Louis Kuijs.
New orders slipped to 52.3 from 52.5.
Production and business activity expectations fell to 54.9 from October's 57.5.
Stocks of purchases contracted with a reading of 47.8, the lowest since July. "This indicates that the producers are not rushing to hoard raw materials due to lack of final demand," says ANZ Bank. (PR)
The HSBC Chinese flash PMI has slipped to 50.4 in November from 50.9 and missed consensus that was also 50.9.
However, the output index has edged up to an eight-month high of 51.3 from 51.1.
PMI "moderated due to the weak new-export orders and slowing pace of restocking activities," HSBC said. "The muted inflationary pressures should enable Beijing to keep policy relatively accommodative to support growth."
Citigroup economist Ding Shuang says the recent growth rebound may have peaked. "Tighter credit conditions and reform measures will continue to weigh on investment and growth through next year," Ding says. Reforms could be slowed down if the risk of GDP growth falling below 7% "becomes material."
The Shanghai Composite is -0.2% and the Hang Seng is -0.35%. (PR)
Prices for new homes in China's four main cities continued to soar in October, strengthening concerns about a property bubble in the country - although apparently not at Moody's.
Prices increased in 69 of the 70 cities tracked by the government, with sales surging 33% in the first 10 months of the year.
Moody's described the sales growth as "moderate" and the outlook for the property sector as stable.
The data follows Friday's release of the details of a comprehensive reform program in which the Communist Party plans to let the market play a "decisive" role in the economy. That, say Barclays analysts, indicates that property market regulation will shift to the supply side from the demand side, which hasn't been particularly successful in curbing demand.