Asia’s factories remain in doldrums even as lockdowns ease

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SYDNEY  – Asia’s factory managers remained downbeat about the world’s trade engines in May, even as battered economies start to re-open across the region.

Purchasing managers indexes for South Korea, Japan and Taiwan fell, according to data released by IHS Markit on Monday (June 1). Readings for Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines improved but below 50, the dividing line between contraction and expansion.

China PMI data released on Sunday showed the official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index declined to a worse-than-expected 50.6, from 50.8 a month earlier.

The factory data underscore the fragile nature of an expected recovery for the world economy.

High-frequency figures recently have shown an uptick in global demand, with risks that the recovery across economies will be uneven without a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Manufacturing gauges are signaling more relief so far than services sectors, with governments only now beginning to and allow for more mobility of consumers.

In South Korea, a bellwether for global trade, exports posted another double-digit decline in May. Overseas shipments fell 24 per cent from a year earlier, the trade ministry said on Monday, compared with economists’ forecast of a 25 per cent contraction.

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