The HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers Index, the earliest monthly indicator of China’s industrial activity, fell to a seven-month low of 48.1 in June from a final reading of 48.4 in May.
It marked the eighth consecutive month that the HSBC PMI has been below 50, indicating contraction.
Both input and output prices dived to their lowest levels in over two years as a sub-index measuring output hit a three-month low.
The new orders sub-index fell in June and the new export orders sub-index dropped even more sharply, to 45.9, its lowest level since March 2009, the data compiled by Markit Economics Research shows.
“Economic activity going into June is still quite soft in general,” said Kevin Lai, an analyst at Daiwa in Hong Kong. “But we still expect full-year growth of 8.4 percent, which implies some cyclical recovery in the second-half of the year.”
Selling of Chinese and Hong Kong shares picked up after the data. The Hang Seng Index was down 0.8 percent and the Shanghai composite index sank deeper into the red, down 1.35 percent.
Coal and oil majors, which are more sensitive to growth concerns in the world’s second-largest economy, were among the worst hit on the Chinese bourse. Brent crude futures clung to 18-month lows at just above $92 a barrel and copper nursed losses of 1.2 percent at $7,455 a tonne.
“With external headwinds remaining strong, exports are likely to decelerate in the coming months,” HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a note accompanying the survey. “The sharp fall of prices and moderation of new orders suggest weak domestic demand, posing destocking pressures for Chinese manufacturers.”
The relatively shallower fall in overall new orders compared with new export orders could indicate that the domestic economy is not doing as badly as the exports industry.