London, 2 October (Argus) — China’s official purchasing managers index (PMI) for manufacturing expanded in September on improved production and new orders.

China’s official manufacturing PMI increased to 52.4 in September from 51.7 in August, China’s national bureau of statistics (NBS) data show.

This is the fastest pace of growth since April 2012 when the index stood at 53.3.

Production was higher in September at 54.7 from 54.1 a month earlier, and new orders increased to 54.8 from 53.1.

Raw material inventories increased to 48.9 from 48.3 over the same period.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, and a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The improvement in Chinese manufacturing has partly been reflected in metals prices that hit multi-year highs last month.

Three-month copper on London-based metals exchange LME settled at a three-year high of $6,937/t on 5 September, while zinc hit a ten-year high of $3,195/t on 5 September.

Price pressure for smaller businesses 

China’s Caixin PMI manufacturing index covering small-to-medium-sized businesses fell to 51.0 from 51.7 as production and new orders expanded at their slowest rates since June.

Output prices and input costs increased to their highest level this year. High raw material costs are causing “outstanding price pressure” for manufacturing companies, director of analysis at CEBM group Zhong Zhengsheng said. Stock shortages of raw materials and environmental inspections affected vendor performance and increased lead delivery times in September.

In Japan, the Nikkei manufacturing PMI was 52.9 in September, up from 52.2 in August. New export orders increased to the highest level in seven months.

In South Korea, the Nikkei manufacturing PMI rose to 50.6 in September from 49.9 in August. Output increased for the first time since July 2016. But new export orders decreased amid lower demand from key exports markets, particularly China. Chinese automotive demand has been lower this year because of a tax cut policy that will come into force at the end of 2017.

Government inspections

China’s production fell for a number of non-ferrous metals in August as stricter environmental policies, including government inspections at mines and metal processing plants, disrupted production.

Chinese output of 10 types of non-ferrous metals — copper, aluminium, zinc, lead, tin, mercury, nickel, titanium, antimony and magnesium — decreased by 2.2pc to 4.42mn t in August from a year earlier.

Aluminium production, excluding the seasonally lower output month of February, declined to its lowest since April 2016. Output totalled 2.64mn t in August, down by 2.6pc year on year.

Aluminium prices increased to a five-year high of $2,191/t on 20 September after Aluminium Corporation of China (Chalco) said it will cut back production in advance of the Chinese government’s plans to reduce aluminium and alumina capacity in the winter heating season.

Zinc production decreased by 4.6pc year on year to 494,000t in August.

China’s domestic zinc concentrate supply was disrupted in August after an earthquake in Sichuan province. Zinc and lead producers in the Sichuan province suspended operations on 9 August. The halt is expected to last 1-2 months, potentially removing 5,000-10,000t of zinc concentrate supply.

Stricter environmental regulations and inspections have also hampered construction of new zinc and lead mines in China this year.

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