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China’s manufacturing sector saw activity climb higher in February, counter to expectations, but both the construction and services sectors saw softer growth, according to official gauges.

China’s official purchasing managers’ index for the manufacturing sector came in at 51.6 in February according to the National Bureau of Statistics, up slightly from January and still well above the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction. A median forecast from economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted slight deceleration to 51.2.

A sub-index for output rose to 53.7 while that for new orders inched upward to 53 as new export orders climbed half a point to 50.8, indicating improved external demand. Employment levels continued to deteriorate, but only marginally, with a reading of 49.7 coming in just below the water margin.

Input prices grew, but at a 0.3-point slower pace from a month earlier at 64.2, while output price growth accelerated more substantially to 56.3, up 1.6 points from January.

Conditions continued to improve for large-scale manufacturers, a sub-index for which rose 0.6 points to 53.3. Contraction in activity among small enterprises held steady at a reading of 46.4 while activity growth recorded at medium-sized companies slipped 0.3 points to 50.5.

Meanwhile, a sub-index for services industries came in at 53.2, down from the previous month. A broader gauge of growth for all non-manufacturing activity slowed to 54.2 as a sub-index for construction activity fell a full point to 60.1 in February, a sharper fall than even the previous month’s dip of 0.8 points.

Stick around for the Caixin manufacturing PMI, an independent cross-check on the official manufacturing gauge due out later this hour.

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