Beijing: Growth in Asia’s factory output cooled further in June, with China hitting its slowest pace in 14 months, in the latest evidence that rapid economic expansion that has supported the global recovery is moderating.

Asian stocks and commodity prices fell after surveys of Chinese purchasing managers added to concerns over the global outlook, although economists downplayed fears of a precipitous slowdown in the world’s third-biggest economy.

“The moderation in the manufacturing PMI implies slower sequential growth in China’s manufacturing sector, partly due to the tightening measures taking effect," said Qu Hongbin, chief economist for China at HSBC, referring to government steps to cool the property market and curb bank lending.

“But fears about hard-landing are overplayed."

Qu predicted China would achieve around 9% growth in the second half, underpinned by massive investment and robust private consumption, after posting annual growth of 11.9% in the first quarter.

Elsewhere in Asia, manufacturing growth in India eased from a two-year peak last month while the pace of growth for South Korean factories fell to a six-month low, similar surveys showed on Thursday.

Similar surveys from the euro zone and the United States are due later in the day. The pace of output growth in United States is expected to have eased slightly in June while that in the euro zone likely held steady despite worries that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis will curb consumer and corporate demand.

A flurry of weak US economic data in recent weeks and persistent worries about Europe have helped drag the MSCI world equity index down more than 10% since April. Though most economists do not expect a slide back into a global recession, they worry much of the developed world may see a prolonged period of only sluggish growth.

Underscoring the uneven nature of the global recovery that is vexing investors, Russian manufacturing expanded in June at the fastest rate since April 2008.

On Wednesday, a Nomura/JMMA survey showed Japanese manufacturing growth slowed in June for the first time in five months, with the pace of new export orders, a leading indicator of Japanese exports, easing for the second straight month.

Steady slowdown

HSBC’s China Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to a 14-month low of 50.4 -- just above the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction -- from 52.7 in May, with both output and new orders dropping outright for the first time since the depths of the global downturn in March 2009.

The official PMI for April, produced for the National Bureau of Statistics and released earlier on Thursday, fell to 52.1 from 53.9 in May. The reading, the weakest since February, fell short of the median forecast of 53.1 in a Reuters poll of economists. Commenting on the official PMI, government economist Zhang Liqun spoke of a “steady slowdown" in the broader economy.

“China’s growth is at a critical stage of levelling off after the climb," he said.

Convinced that a sustained recovery from the global downturn will fuel inflationary pressures, central banks in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand and Taiwan have already begun to raise interest rates.

The surveys pointed to a slight slowdown in inflation but economists said it was not enough to ease worries of policymakers that prices will continue to rise.

Commenting on the Indian PMI, Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian Economics Research at HSBC, said: “Both activity and price components are easing from very elevated levels, suggesting that it is too early to worry about growth and let down our guard on underlying price trends."

India’s wholesale price inflation shot up to a higher-than-expected 10.2% in May, raising some speculation the central bank may lift rates before its scheduled policy review on 27 July.

In South Korea, which saw its headline PMI slip to a six-month low of 53.28 from 54.61 in May, growth in output prices eased but not as much as the slowdown in input prices, suggesting domestic demand remained resilient.

“Thus, the Bank of Korea is likely to begin its exit from extreme accommodation with a rate hike in the third quarter," said HSBC economist Song Yi Kim.