Manufacturing still struggling

China's manufacturing contracted for a second month in December, as global growth faltered and Premier Wen Jiabao prolonged a crackdown on speculation in the housing market.

The index was 48.7 in December, HSBC Holdings and Markit Economics said. That compared with a preliminary result of 49 reported on December 15 and a final reading of 47.7 for November. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The central bank may cut lenders' reserve requirements before a Lunar New Year holiday starting on January 23 that will fuel demand for cash, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Last month's half percentage-point reduction indicated that the government is putting a focus on supporting growth as inflation cools.

"Weakening external demand is starting to bite," said Qu Hongbin, a Hong Kong-based economist for HSBC.

The Shanghai Composite Index was up 1 per cent yesterday, buoyed by signs of strength in the US, after the world's largest economy reported rising home sales.


Growth slows after rates rise

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to win passage of his anti-corruption bill, the latest disappointment for Mr Singh, whose championing of free-market policies two decades ago helped India become the second-fastest growing major economy. A failure to contain inflation and a reversal on foreign investment has sapped confidence in his administration.

Economic growth is slowing after the central bank raised interest rates by a record pace. India's economy grew 6.9 per cent in the three months to September 30, the weakest since the second quarter of 2009.

The central bank's campaign has had little impact, with the benchmark wholesale price index climbing 9.1 per cent in November from a year before, compared with the 9.5 per cent pace at the start of this year. By comparison, China's inflation rate was 4.2 per cent in November. The rupee has weakened about 16 per cent against the dollar this year, Asia's worst performer, as an exodus by investors sent the Sensex index of stocks down 23 per cent, more than the 18 per cent drop in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

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