China PMI down
A worker welds steel pipes at a factory in Suining, Sichuan province. Reuters

China's factory activity grew at a softer pace in November on shrinking export orders, a preliminary private survey showed Wednesday night EDT, supporting expectations that the country's economy might weaken in the fourth quarter.

The Flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dipped to 50.4 from October's final reading of 50.9, the Star reported. However, for a fourth straight month, it stayed above the 50 line that demarcates expansion of activities from contraction.

"China's growth momentum softened a little in November, as the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI moderated due to the weak new export orders and slowing pace of restocking activities," said Hongbin Qu, chief China economist at HSBC. "The muted inflationary pressures should enable Beijing to keep policy relatively accommodative to support growth," he added in a comment that accompanied the PMI.

A sub-index measuring new export orders fell to a three-month low of 49.4 in November, from the previous month's 51.3, which suggests lazy external demand due to patchy recoveries in developed countries, the Star noted.

New orders also edged down a bit, which could reflect that a comeback in domestic demand isn't strong enough to make up for lackluster external orders.

Eleven sub-indices were in the survey, and nine of them pointed to either slower growth or a contraction, such as jobs. For 2013, the world's second-largest economy has homed in on an annual economic growth target of 7.5 percent, and economists and officials think that's achievable. The country's economy, meanwhile, is bound to post its most stagnant growth in 23 years.

Following a rebound between July and September, according to many economists, the Chinese economy will probably reveal a weaker momentum in 2013's last three months due to slowing credit growth and a restocking demand fall-off.

The Star reported that Beijing would go for a slower growth rate while moving forward with economic reforms to wean growth from investment and export toward consumption.

After a four-day conclave that ended last week, China's leadership showcased its most formative social and economic reforms in almost three decades, and those could set the nation on a growth path.

The final HSBC PMI for November is expected to be published Dec 2, the day after the an official survey is set to be released.