China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) came in at 50.1 last month, down from 50.3 recorded in November.

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.

"Growth momentum is still insufficient," NBS said in a statement.

British bank HSBC said on Tuesday that its own PMI figure for the month fell to 49.6, down from the breakeven point of 50.0 in November.

"The decline of both official and HSBC PMIs suggests that China's manufacturing sector, especially those industries related to property market, is still struggling due to sluggish domestic demand," Li-Gang Liu and Hao Zhou, economists said.

But some data suggest that "real activity indicators should have accelerated in the last month of 2014, supported by proactive fiscal policy", they added.
    
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.
    
The People's Bank of China lowered its one-year rate for deposits by 25 basis points to 2.75 percent and its one-year lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6 percent.

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