Coming on the heels of China's slowest year of growth in 13 years, a preliminary HSBC/Markit purchasing managers index eased to 50.4 in February from 52.3 in January. "It casts some shadow over China's recovery. Chinese economic fundamentals may prove weaker than previously expected," said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura Holdings in Hong Kong and a former IMF researcher.

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