Chinese manufacturing shrank for a second month in a row in September, showing the headwinds blighting the world's second-largest economy despite some signs the contraction is easing.
Factory output ticked up slightly from the previous month in September, official data showed.
But the recovery in the vital sector remained anaemic at a time when the health of China's economy has become a key preoccupation for world markets.
Analysts said the weak data showed the world's second-largest economy continued to slow in the quarter just ended, and added to expectations it would miss the official target of seven percent expansion for the year.
China is the top global trader in goods and its manufactured items sell worldwide, so weak production data is seen not only as a barometer of its own growth but also the state of the global economy.
Beijing's official Purchasing Managers' Index came in at 49.8 last month, slightly up from a reading of 49.7 in August and above the average of 49.7 predicted by a poll of analysts by Bloomberg News.
A figure below 50 indicates a contraction.
Concerns that China - which accounts for $1 out of every $8 of worldwide GDP - is slowing more than thought sent world markets into a tailspin in recent weeks as investors fretted about its impact on global growth.
A private manufacturing survey released today by Caixin, which focuses more on smaller companies than the official figures, painted a darker picture of the state of Chinese manufacturers, showing the slowdown accelerated in September for a seventh consectuive month.
Analysts said the sluggish data indicated manufacturing continued to be a drag on the economy, which they estimated grew at 6.4% in the third quarter, but predicted that would pick up later in the year.
Chinese authorities have cut interest rates five times since November and reduced how much cash banks need to hold in reserve in a bid to boost the economy as it moves towards a model driven by domestic consumption rather than exports and government spending.