China's service industries expanded at a faster pace last month, supporting a further acceleration of growth in the world's second-biggest economy.
The non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 55.6 from 54.5 in February, the Beijing-based National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said yesterday.
A separate services gauge from HSBC and Markit Economics rose to 54.3, matching the highest since May, from 52.1. Readings above 50 signal expansion.
A pick-up in industries from banking to transportation would bolster expansion after factory output had the weakest January – February growth since 2009.
Premier Li Keqiang, who took office last month, is trying to rely more on domestic demand for growth and less on exports and investment.
"The economy is on track to meet or beat the government's target," Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist and strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said in a note.
The official gauge's level, while "relatively low" by historical standards, is consistent with a "more moderate pace of growth," Kowalczyk said.
The government last month set a target of 7.5pc expansion for 2013, the same as 2012's goal. The March reading of the official services PMI compares with 58.0 in March 2012 and 59.2 in March 2011.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index of stocks rose 0.2pc following two days of losses.
Economic growth may have accelerated for a second quarter to 8.1pc in the first three months of this year, according to the median estimate in a 'Bloomberg News' survey last month.
Gross domestic product expanded 7.9pc in the final three months of last year after a 7.4pc gain in the previous quarter, reversing a seven-quarter slowdown. (Bloomberg)