LOS ANGELES – A preliminary reading of China's manufacturing sector has hit an 18-month high this month, as work orders appear to be picking up pace, HSBC reported Thursday. The "flash" version of HSBC's July manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 52.0, up from 50.7 in June to mark its second month back above the 50 level separating growth from contraction. The result handily beat expectations for a 51.0 print, according to a Reuters survey. Among the subindexes of the flash PMI -- which typically include 85%-90% of the responses to the monthly survey of manufacturers -- both new export orders and overall new orders rose at a faster rate than in the previous month, while employment slowed its decline. "Economic activity continues to improve in July, suggesting that the cumulative impact of mini-stimulus measures introduced earlier is still filtering through," wrote HSBC chief China economist Hongbin Qu in remarks accompanying the data. "We expect policy makers to maintain their accommodative stance over the next few months to consolidate the recovery," Qu wrote. The Shanghai Composite Index nudged higher after the data, showing a 0.7% gain compared to a 0.5% rise moments ahead of the data, while the Australian dollar -- often sensitive to economic data from Australia's top trading partner, China -- rose to 94.68 U.S cents from 94.39 U.S. cents. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index extended its pre-data 0.3% gain to a 0.4% advance.
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