BEIJING, Mar.5 -- Business activity in China's non-manufacturing sector slowed sharply in February on waning market demand after the Spring Festival holiday, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) said Saturday.
The non-manufacturing sector's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a key economic indicator, fell to 48.4 percent last month from 52.9 percent in January, the CFLP said.
A PMI reading above 50 percent indicates expansion from the previous month, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
Cai Jin, vice chairman of the CFLP, attributed the decline to decreased consumption after the annual Spring Festival holiday boom, especially in the retail and catering industries.
The festival, usually a prime time for business sales, took place in January this year.
The data came after China's manufacturing PMI saw its third consecutive month of growth in February, rising to 51 percent on increased new orders and export demand.
The sub-index for new orders in the non-manufacturing sector went down 2.4 percentage points to 46.1 percent last month, while that for new export-orders edged down 0.1 percentage points to 45.7 percent.
The business outlook index saw a rise of 3.3 percentage points to reach 66.5 percent.
Deducting seasonal factors, the sector is "operating normally," a CFLP statement said.
The construction industry rebounded significantly from January. The sector's business activity index rose to 53.7 percent, while its new orders index increased to 49.5 percent.
Subsiding holiday impact and increased working days helped lift the figures, said the CFLP.
The construction industry's business outlook index ran up to 74 percent, a sign of market optimism despite slowing investmens, the CFLP said, adding that March's data will give a better picture of the overall economic climate.
The property industry also experienced a rally, with its business activity index climbing 7.8 percentage points to 45.9 percent. The index for new orders rose 4.8 percentage points to 40.5 percent.
The CFLP said the intermittent easing of economic policies in some regions has fueled policy-loosening predictions.
In one case, the municipal government of Shanghai said weeks ago that families who are not registered in Shanghai can buy second homes if they have obtained residence permits within the last three years, a move that contradicted the central government's current home purchase restrictions.
Similar easing has taken place in the cities of Wuhu and Foshan. Although the governments of those cities later reversed their easing policies, they have still left a mark on the market.
The housing sector's business outlook index came in at 55.5 percent, a lower-than-average figures that indicates downcast sentiment in the sector for the short-term, the CFLP said.
The index for intermediate input prices in February shed 0.3 percentage points to reach 58.3 percent, but prices for logistics- and transportation-related businesses moved higher with rising refined oil prices.
The federation's non-manufacturing PMI is based on a survey of about 1,200 companies in 20 industries, including transportation, real estate, retailing, catering and software development.