Sydney — One of the characteristics of inflection points is volatility in the data, with the two surveys of China’s vast manufacturing sector providing a case in point. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for February showed a somewhat depressing drop to 49.2 from January’s 49.5, sitting for a second month below the 50-level that separates growth from contraction. But the gloom created by the National Bureau of Statistics PMI was partially lifted by a more upbeat Caixin/Markit report. This survey of mainly private Chinese companies rose to 49.9 in February from the prior month’s 48.3. While this is still below the 50-level, it was above the market consensus of analysts’ forecasts. Encouragingly, the sub-index for total new orders was back in positive territory at 50.2. A possible explanation of the difference between the two PMIs is that the Caixin/Markit measure is more nimble and the companies it surveys are more likely to have been early beneficiaries of the recent stim...

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