China's manufacturing activity accelerated to a five-month high in May, preliminary results of a business survey by Markit Economics and British bank HSBC Ltd. showed Thursday. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity of the world's second-biggest economy, rose to 49.7 percent, up from April's final reading of 48.1 percent on a 100-point scale. The index was the highest since December 2013, but remained below the key 50 percent line for the fifth month in a row. A PMI reading above 50 percent indicates growth from the previous month, while a reading below 50 represents contraction in China's manufacturing sector. The index is a closely watched barometer of the health of the Chinese economy. "The improvement was broad-based, with both new orders and new export orders back in expansionary territory," HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a statement accompanying the data. "Disinflationary pressures also eased over the month, and output prices increased for the first time since November 2013," said Qu. Some tentative signs of stabilization are emerging, partly as a result of the recent mini-stimulus measures and lower borrowing costs, according to Qu. "But downside risks to growth remain, particularly as the property market continues to cool. We think more policy easing is needed to put a floor under growth in the coming months," he added. China's economic growth slowed to a six-quarter low of 7.4 percent in the first quarter of this year.