BEIJING--An initial gauge of Chinese factory activity fell in September to its lowest level in six-and-a-half years, suggesting a second-half slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy is worsening.
The reading is the latest to indicate softness in the Chinese economy. Recent data including industrial production and trade have also signaled weakening, raising questions about whether China can meet Beijing's target for this year of about 7% year-over-year growth.
The preliminary Caixin China manufacturing purchasing managers index, a gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity, fell to 47.0 in September, compared with a final reading of 47.3 in August, Caixin Media Co. and research firm Markit said Wednesday. The reading was the lowest since March 2009, when China was grappling with the global financial crisis.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion from the previous month, while a reading below 50 points to a contraction.
"The situation is definitely worsening in September, reflecting difficulties of China's manufacturing sector that has been weighed down by sluggish internal and external demand," said Zhang Yiping, an economist with China Merchants Securities.
"China's economy is facing more downward pressure now," said Mr. Zhang, adding that he expects growth to slip below 7% year-over-year in the third quarter.
The preliminary PMI figure is based on 85% to 90% of total responses to the PMI survey each month, and is issued about a week before the final PMI reading.