China's manufacturing sector expanded at a slower pace in February with high-tech industries growing strongly.
The manufacturing purchasing managers' index came in at 50.3 this month, down from 51.3 in January, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Wednesday.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction.
NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe described the decline as "a normal fluctuation" as the index tends to fall in the month of the Spring Festival holiday.
Sub-indices for production and new orders went down to 50.7 and 51, respectively, while sub-indices on raw material stock, employees and suppliers' delivery time remained below 50.
Despite the slowdown, manufacturing PMI has stayed above 50 for 19 months, to some extent supported by strong performance of emerging industries.
High-tech manufacturing expansion sped up in February, Zhao said.
The PMI for the high-tech manufacturing registered 54 in February, compared to 53.2 for January, higher than the 50.3 for the whole manufacturing sector.
Equipment manufacturing also expanded more rapidly, with a PMI of 51, compared to 50 for January.
Non-manufacturing grew at a slower pace, at 54.4 this month, down from 55.3 in January.
The service sector, which accounts for more than half of GDP, reported milder expansion as its index dropped to 53.8 from 54.4.
Retail, catering, railways, aviation, telecom, Internet and tourism saw increased consumption during Spring Festival, with all business activity indices above 56.