China's manufacturing slowed in December for a second month due to weak global demand amid U.S. and European economic woes, a survey released Friday showed.
The latest HSBC Purchasing Managers Index added to growing signs of strain on China's manufacturers and exporters. They have been battered by a plunge in global demand and lending curbs that have driven thousands of entrepreneurs into bankruptcy, wiping out jobs and raising the specter of unrest.
The index for December stood at 48.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate a contraction in activity. It said companies reported a drop in foreign orders due to sluggish global demand.
"Weakening external demand is starting to bite," said HSBC economist Hongbin Qu in a statement with the survey.
The latest data will add to pressure on Beijing to ease spending and lending controls to stabilize growth and spur job creation, Qu said.
"Hard landings should be avoided so long as easing measures filter through in the coming months," he said.
China's export growth declined in November for a third month, falling to 13.8 percent from the 15.9 percent the previous month.
The slump in global demand has battered export-driven southern coastal regions, where thousands of small companies have been driven out of business and the survivors have laid off tens of thousands of workers.
Smaller private companies were hard hit by bank lending curbs imposed to cool inflation and a boom in housing prices. The government has promised to have state banks lend more to help struggling entrepreneurs but says most of its curbs will remain in place.