BEIJING (Al-Jazeera) - Asia’s factory activity slowed in May as China’s heavy-handed coronavirus curbs continued to disrupt supply chains and dampen demand, adding to woes for some of the region’s economies that are already under strain from surging raw material costs.
Manufacturers slowed activity last month in countries ranging from Japan to Taiwan and Malaysia, business surveys showed on Wednesday, a sign of the challenge policymakers face in combatting inflation with tighter monetary policy – without crippling growth.
Exporters across trade-heavy Asia are juggling an increasingly complex set of risks, as China’s COVID-19 lockdowns stifle activity, supply issues emanate from the continuing conflict in Ukraine and demand-side worries emerge as accelerating inflation dents consumption in the world’s biggest economies.
China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 48.1 in May, improving slightly from 46.0 the previous month but staying below the 50-point threshold that separates contraction from expansion, a private survey showed.
The outcome was in line with Tuesday’s official data that showed China’s factory activity fell at a slower pace in May. While COVID curbs are being rolled back in some cities, they continue to weigh heavily on confidence and demand.
“Disruptions to supply chains and goods distribution may gradually ease as Shanghai’s lockdown ends. But we’re not out of the woods as China hasn’t abandoned its zero-COVID policy altogether,” said Toru Nishihama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.
“Rising inflation is forcing some Asian central banks to tighten monetary policy. There’s also the risk of market volatility from U.S. interest rate hikes. Given such layers of risks, Asia’s economy may remain weak for most of this year.”