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Solid China economic data helps Asian markets creep higher

Asian markets advanced Monday after a couple of economic reports showed some signs of promise for China’s manufacturing sector.

Manufacturing in China grew at its strongest pace in nearly three years, according to private survey data released Monday by the media group Caixin and research firm Markit.

The Caixin/Markit purchasing managers’ index edged up from 51.7 in October to 51.8 in November — a sign of modest improvement.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1% on Monday, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.4%. South Korea’s Kospi and China’s Shanghai Composite each added 0.1%.

Over the weekend, China released official PMI data that showed an increase to an eight-month high of 50.2 in November, up from 49.3 in the previous month, according to government statistics. It was better than what the market expected, according to Refinitiv data.

This was also the first time the reading returned to the expansion territory since April. A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion, while any figure below 50 signals contraction.

But the good news might be short lived, according to analysts who pointed out that China still faces some major economic hurdles — including weak domestic demand and uncertainty over the US-China trade war.

“We do not think such a rise suggests a bottoming out of the economy,” analysts from Normua wrote in a research note Monday, adding that China is still contending with a cooling property sector, too. They expect Bejing to find more ways to prop up the economy in the future.

Analysts from Macquarie, meanwhile, said the most recent data is a sign of “short-term stabilization.” But they added in a note that “the worst is yet to come.”

Even a “phase one” deal between the United States and China would likely to little to help, they said, adding that such an agreement is “mainly about preventing things from getting worse, instead of making things significantly better.”

US futures rose during Asian trading hours Monday, too. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up between 0.3% and 0.4%.