China's manufacturing growth slowed in November as exports eased and factories put off restocking owing to weaker demand, HSBC said Thursday, casting a cloud over recovery in the world's second-largest economy. The British banking giant's preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) for this month came in at 50.4, down from a final reading of 50.9 in October, a seven-month high. The index tracks manufacturing activity in China's factories and workshops and is a closely watched gauge of the health of the economy. A reading above 50 indicates growth, while anything below signals contraction. "China's growth momentum softened a little in November," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's economist in Hong Kong, said in a statement accompanying the data. The figure was the second highest reading since March, but slipped from last month because of "the weak new export orders and slowing pace of restocking activities", he said. Chinese leaders may keep policy "relatively accommodative" to support growth, he added. China's economy recovered from two quarters of slowing growth to expand 7.8 percent in July-September, mainly on the back of government stimulus featuring increased rail and urban fixed-asset investment, tax cuts and looser monetary policy. Analysts have warned that the recovery may lose some momentum in the fourth quarter, with Beijing's pro-growth policy stance likely to turn neutral. The bank's final PMI for this month is scheduled to be released on December 2, said HSBC.