Factory exercise shrank sharply across most of Asia in March as the coronavirus crisis battered financial activity across the globe, with sharp dips in export power-houses Japan and South Korea clouding a modest improvement in China.
Manufacturing gauges further plunged in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) surveys showed on Wednesday, marking the widening damage brought by the pandemic that has infected over 700,000 individuals, upended supply networks and led to city lockdowns globally.
China’s factory exercise improved slightly over expected in March after falling a month before, a private business survey showed; however, progress was marginal, highlighting the intense strain facing companies as domestic and export demand tumbles.
While factories in China steadily resumed operations after prolonged shutdowns and a drop in virus infections allowed the nation to begin easing travel bans. Activity in South Korea contracted at its fastest pace in 11 years as many of its trading companions followed drastic moves to contain the virus’ spread.
Japan’s factory exercise contracted on the fastest pace in about a decade in March, adding to views that the world’s third-largest economy is probably going already in recession.
An independent “tankan” survey by the Bank of Japan confirmed Wednesday that business sentiment plunged to a seven-year low in the three months to March, as the pandemic struck sectors from hotels to car manufacturers.