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The Chinese manufacturing PMI rose to 50.2 in March from 49.0 in February, according to the Chinese government. February's reading was the lowest reading since November 2011.
Analysts had expected the index to increase to 49.3.
A reading above the 50 mark indicates expansion, a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
The increase was driven by rises in output and new orders, while employment fell.
The services PMI increased to 53.8 in March from 52.7 in February.
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