Robots work on a production line at a car factory in Cangzhou city, north China's Hebei Province, Oct. 18, 2016. (Xinhua/Mou Yu)
China's manufacturing sector continued to slow in January 2017 because of a further improvement in the health of the sector.
The Caixin General Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) edged down to 51.0 last month from December's 47-month record of 51.9, and was consistent with only a marginal rate of improvement.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 represents contraction.
The rate of improvement slowed since December 2016 as output and new orders increased at weaker rates amid a further reduction in employment. In contrast, new export work rose at the fastest pace since September 2014, according to the survey conducted by financial information service provider Markit and sponsored by Caixin Media Co. Ltd.
At the same time, inflationary pressures remained sharp, with both input costs and output charges increasing at rates scarcely seen throughout the past five years. Nonetheless, companies remained optimistic towards future growth prospects, and expressed the highest degree of optimism towards the 12-month business outlook since July 2016. (Updated)