But this missed economists' expectations of a rise to 51.2. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.
In a note released prior to the report, Bank of America's Ting Lu had said that official PMI has never decreased from February to March, and that on average, it has increased by 3.1 points.
"However, given the current weak recovery and the improved seasonal adjustment by the NBS, we expect the seasonal rebound this time would be relatively modest compared with previous years."
Here's a look at the sub-indices in the March manufacturing report.
|March 2013||Feb 2013|
|New export orders||50.9||47.3|
|Backlog of work||47.1||44.4|
|Inventories of finished goods||50.2||46.6|
|Inventories of raw materials||47.5||49.5|
|Supplier delivery times||51.1||48.3|
The PMI as surveyed by the National Bureau of Statistics looks at responses of 3,000 companies in 21 industries. This compares with about 430 companies surveyed by HSBC.
Here's a look at the trajectory of PMI and industrial production since 2005:
Many of the world's biggest economies are releasing their March manufacturing PMI reports. Follow it LIVE at Business Insider >
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