China manufacturing unexpectedly shrinks in JanuaryChina’s manufacturing activity contracted for the first time in more than two years in January, an official survey showed Sunday, signalling further downward pressure on the world’s second-largest economy. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) came in at 49.8 last month, down from 50.1 recorded in December. The index, which tracks activity in factories and workshops, is considered a key indicator of the health of China’s economy, a major driver of global growth. A figure above 50 signals expansion, while anything below indicates contraction. January’s figure was the first contraction for 27 months. British banking giant HSBC said last month that a preliminary reading of its own PMI edged up to 49.8 in January from a final reading of 49.6 in December. It was at the break-even point of 50.0 in November. The bank is scheduled to release its final PMI figure on Monday. ANZ Banking Group said in a research report that the NBS figures were unexpected, particularly given “favourable seasonal factors”. “The Chinese New Year falls into late February this year, while it was in late January last year,” ANZ said.  “Past experience suggests that there could be significant front loading effect before the Chinese New Year, which would provide short-term impetus to the manufacturing industry.” China’s central bank surprised economists in November by cutting benchmark interest rates for the first time in more than two years, in a move interpreted as an attempt to shore up flagging growth. More