China Services PMI came in at a surprising uplift in January, reaching 52.4 - the highest reading since August 2015, and up on 50.2 in December. This move was surprising since Chinese services PMI has been deteriorating every month from October 2015.
Per Markit: services “providers had a strong start to 2016, with business activity increasing at the fastest rate in six months. …According to panellists, improved inflows of new business underpinned the latest expansion of services activity.”
As a reminder, the downturn in the manufacturing sector hit Chinese Manufacturing PMI hard with index falling to a 3-mo low in January and staying below 50.0 line of zero growth for 11 months in a row. Details of Manufacturing PMI dynamics are covered in-depth here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2016/02/1216-bric-manufacturing-pmi-january.html.
On a 3mo moving average basis, China Services PMI stood at 51.3 in January 2016, exactly the same as for the 3mo period through October 2015 and down on 52.7 reading for the 3mo average through January 2015. It is worth noting that the index never dipped below 50.0 in its entire history and the historical average for the index is at 55.1. Current reading is statistically significantly below the historical average.
Due to substantial improvement in the Services PMI, China’s Composite PMI signalled stabilisation in overall economy-wide Chinese business activity in January, with Composite Output Index registering fractionally above the no-change 50.0 value at 50.1, up from 49.4 in December. However, overall, Composite PMI of China has been above 50.0 in only two of the last 6 months and on both occasions, index readings were not statistically distinguishable from 50.0.
Still, 3mo average through January for Composite PMI stood at 50.0 (zero growth) against 48.9 average through October 2015 and 51.3 average through January 2015. In other words, the economy, judging by Composite PMI might be closer to stabilising, but growth is not exactly roaring back.