China services PMI falls to 53.7 as new orders soften

China's normally robust services sector weakened sharply in September, as slow growth in manufacturing finally began to feed through to the rest of the economy, an official survey showed on Wednesday.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the services sector fell to 53.7 in September from 56.3 in August, weighed by lackluster new orders, according to the latest survey from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The services sector index follows two PMI surveys of China's vast manufacturing industry that showed growth stabilizing at a slower pace, presaging the seventh straight quarter of slowing economic growth in the world's second-largest economy.

The value is the lowest in at least a year, although the sector remains above the 50-point line that divides expansion from contraction. As China's economy matures and becomes more consumer-oriented, the services sector would be expected to post stronger growth than the manufacturing sector, which boomed earlier.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing conducts the survey on behalf of China's National Bureau of Statistics.

China's fast-growing services industry had weathered the global slowdown much better than the factory sector, with the PMI consistently signalling healthy expansion and hitting a 10-month high of 58.0 in March.

But analysts had expected it to start feeling the chill winds from the manufacturing sector, which has fluctuated below 50 for all but one month since June 2011, according to the HSBC PMI survey, which tracks more of the private factories vital to job creation. The more cautious official manufacturing PMI, which tends to reflect larger, state-owned enterprises, has also been below 50 for two months running.

(Reporting By Lucy Hornby and Xu Wan; Editing by Eric Meijer)