China's manufacturing gauge picks up slightly but still shows contraction amid economic slump



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BEIJING — An index that measures China's manufacturing activity went up slightly in February but still showed contraction amid China's economy slowdown, according to official data released Sunday.

The latest monthly purchasing managers' index up to 49.9 from January's 9.8, China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reported. The index uses a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show activity contracting. February's reading meant activity contracted from the previous month.

The gauge dropped below 50 in January for the first time since October 2012. Last month's reading of 49.9 is the second consecutive reading showing contraction and signals downward pressure on the economy.

China's economy, the world's second largest, grew 7.4 percent last year, its slowest expansion in nearly a quarter century.

Its central bank cut interest rates for the second time in three months Saturday, adding to signs that the country's leaders are worried the economic slowdown might be deepening too sharply, raising the risk of politically dangerous job losses.

China's economy is expected to decline in the next several years as the government tries to steer the economy to more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption instead of heavy industry and manufacturing.

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