[size=36]Chinese factory activity shrinks for fourth month as trade pressures mount[/size]
Continued weakness in China's large manufacturing sector could fuel speculation that Beijing needs to provide more stimulus more quickly to avoid the biggest downturn in its economy in decades.
The Office for National Statistics said on Saturday that the PMI fell to 49.5 in August from 49.7 in July, below the 50-point barrier that separates growth from contraction.
Analysts had expected the index to remain unchanged in August from the previous month, a Reuters survey showed.
Growing trade disputes with the United States as well as weak global demand continue to weigh on China's exports, the index showed.
Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August, albeit at a slower pace, with the sub-index rising to 47.2 from 46.9 in July.
Total new orders - both from home and abroad - continued to decline as well, suggesting that domestic demand remains weak despite a range of pro-growth measures taken by the government last year.
August saw a sharp escalation in the trade dispute between Beijing and Washington, with the Trump administration announcing earlier this month that it would impose new tariffs on Chinese goods from September 1.
After China responded with similar measures, Trump said existing fees would increase in the coming months. Combined US punitive actions effectively cover all Chinese exports to the United States