French manufacturing activity ended 2017 on its strongest footing in more than 17 years with firms rushing to take on extra workers to meet surging demand, a monthly survey showed on Tuesday.
The Caixin China General Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 51.5 last month, up from 50.8 in November.
The rate of growth in new orders was the fastest since June 1998 as client demand improved, and new export orders also increased sharply.
A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion, while a reading below 50 points toward contraction.
The moderate decline in headline PMI was mainly attributable to the lower inventory, while production growth remained solid despite the "unfavorable working day effect", as there were two fewer working days in December 2017 compared with past year, said a CICC research report.
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However, Zhong cautioned that "downward pressure" on growth next year will remain due to "tightening monetary policy and strengthening oversight on local government financing".
The data support the view that the economy is beginning to gradually lose steam after growing by a forecast-beating 6.9 percent in the first nine months of the year, but the findings did not appear to suggest a risk of sharper slowdown at this point.
"Early indicators for December show China's economy pushing into 2018 with growth steady, if unspectacular", said Tom Orlik in a research note, as "the official purchasing managers' indexes show the manufacturing sector slowing slightly and the non-manufacturing sector picking up, driven mainly by construction".
The Caixin PMI focuses more on light industry, while heavy industry makes up a larger share of the NBS survey.