The HSBC Flash China purchasing managers’ index fell to 49.7 in February, down from 48.8 in January and hitting an eight-month low, The Wall Street Journal reported. The preliminary PMI figure is based on 85-90% of responses to the PMI survey each month; the final figure is due on March 1. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector. “Weaker-than-expected credit growth in early February suggests that liquidity conditions remain tight and corporate demand cool,” said Qu Hongbin, HSBC’s chief China economist, adding that the economy “remains on track for a slowdown.” Separately, Shanghai Securities News reported that China’s “Big Four” banks issued around RMB70 billion (US$11.1 billion) in new loans between February 1-19. That marks a sharp slowdown from January’s pace of RMB738.1 billion for the whole month.