China Official PMI Rises to 50.1

China’s factory activity surprisingly expanded in March, government data showed on Wednesday.  The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 50.1 in March from February’s 49.9, a tad above the 50-mark that that separates growth from contraction. A Reuters forecast had expected a figure of 49.8.

The reading is better than the March HSBC final PMI, also released Wednesday, which showed the nation’s vast manufacturing sector in contraction. The 49.6 final print, however, is stronger than the preliminary figure of 49.2.  The Australian dollar widened gains on the news to trade at $0.7642, from $0.7612.

“The pickup in the manufacturing PMI was concentrated among larger firms, likely reflecting expectations of stabilizing demand from China’s construction industry,” said Bill Adams, senior international economist for PNC Financial Services Group.