China´s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a preliminary readout of the country´s manufacturing activity, rose to 51% in February 2012, the highest level since October last year.
The reading marked the third consecutive month of growth in the manufacturing sector, following a 50.5% figure in January and 50.3% in December, according to statistics from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP).
A PMI reading of 50% demarcates expansion from contraction.
The CFLP´s sub-index for new orders hit 51% in February, up 0.6 percentage points from January, while the manufacturing sub-index edged up 0.2 percentage points to 53.8%.
The index for new export orders and imports saw a significant rebound. The sub-index for new export orders added 4.2 percentage points to reach 51.1%, while that for imports rose 3.9 percentage points to 50.8%.
"Looking at the demand growth in exports and investments, the economy is likely to see more pick-ups in the future, but at a slower pace," said Zhang Liqun, a researcher with the development research center of the State Council, China´s cabinet.
Meanwhile, the sub-index for purchase prices rose 4 percentage points from January to 54%, which Zhang said was mainly caused by imported inflation.
Last month, 13 industries, including the transportation equipment manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing and general machinery industries, enjoyed a PMI of over 50%, while the papermaking and beverage industries came in under 50%, according to the statement.
The CFLP´s PMI is based on a survey of purchasing managers in 820 companies in 20 industries.
China plans to expand the sample size for measuring the PMI from the current 820 companies to around 3,000 companies, according to a previous statement from the National Bureau of Statistics and the CFLP. A timetable for the changes has not been specified.