Manufacturing activity in China stagnated in November, British banking giant HSBC said Thursday, warning of "significant" pressures on the world's second-largest economy as its key purchasing managers' index (PMI) hit a six-month low.
HSBC's preliminary PMI for the month came in at the 50.0 breakeven point dividing expansion and contraction, the bank said in a statement.
It was lower than October's 50.4 and was the weakest reading since May's 49.4, according to the bank's data.
The index tracks activity in China's factories and workshops and is a closely watched indicator of the health of the economy, a key driver of global growth.
Protracted easing in new export order growth led output to contract for the first time in six months, while lingering deflationary pressures suggested domestic demand remained insufficient, Qu Hongbin, HSBC's economist in Hong Kong, said in the statement.
"Furthermore, we still see uncertainties in the months ahead from the property market and on the export front," he said.
"We think growth still faces significant downward pressures, and more monetary and fiscal easing measures should be deployed."
China is a key driver of global growth but its economy expanded 7.3 percent in the third quarter, lower than the 7.5 percent expansion in the previous three months and the slowest since the depths of the global financial crisis, the government announced in October.
Beijing's 2014 growth target is about 7.5 percent, the same as last year, although officials including Premier Li Keqiang have openly stated a slightly lower increase is tolerable as long as the job market remains resilient.
The HSBC survey, compiled by information services provider Markit, showed its employment component contracted at a faster pace this month than in October.
Chinese authorities have since April used a series of limited measures to underpin growth, including targeted cuts in reserve requirements -- the amount of funds banks must put aside -- and a 500 billion yuan ($81.7 billion) injection into the country's five biggest banks for re-lending.
HSBC said the final PMI for this month will be published on December 1.