China's March factory activity expands at faster pace - official PMI

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A worker wearing a face mask works on a production line manufacturing bicycle steel rim at a factory, as the country is hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China March 2, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS/File Photo

BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - China's factory activity expanded at a faster-than-expected pace in March, official data showed on Wednesday, as factories that had closed for the Lunar New Year holiday resumed production to meet improving demand.

The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) rose to 51.9 from 50.6 in February, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed, remaining above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction.

Analysts had expected it to rise to 51.0.

Beijing has set an annual economic growth target at above 6% this year, well below analyst expectations for an expansion of more than 8%. Premier Li Keqiang has said policies would not be dramatically loosened to chase higher growth, adding that the focus will be on consolidating the economic recovery. read more

China's was the only major economy to post growth last year with an expansion of 2.3%.

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Reporting by Stella Qiu and Gabriel Crossley

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