Factory growth slows down

China’s official gauge of its manufacturing sector slipped to a five-month low last month, the government said at the weekend, confirming a slowdown in growth in factory activity in the second-largest economy. The monthly purchasing managers’ index (PMI) declined to 50.5 last month after recording 51 in December and 51.4 in November, according to the government’s National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. Any figure above the 50 mark indicates expansion of manufacturing activity while anything below that signals contraction. All major components of the PMI index, from new orders to production, declined, indicating downward pressure on the economy. – Sapa-AFP


AT&T targets US families

AT&T, the second-largest US wireless carrier, is introducing service plans aimed at families that use lots of data, cutting $40 (R444) a month from premium users’ bills. Under the new offer, families with four smartphones could pay $160 a month for 10 gigabytes of shared data, unlimited calling and text messaging, the company said at the weekend. A similar package under AT&T’s previous plan would cost $200, and Verizon Wireless charges $260 for the same plan. The offer requires no contract, and phones must be purchased at full price either up front or in instalments. The move is an escalation of competition in the mobile market where AT&T and T-Mobile US have run back-and-forth attack ads and offered $450 in credit to entice customers to switch service providers. “This is about being competitive,” said David Christopher, the chief marketing officer for AT&T Mobility. – Bloomberg


GM’s Opel unit to keep jobs

General Motors’s (GM’s) Opel unit has agreed to extend by two years until the end of 2018 a guarantee that workers at three German plants will not face lay-offs. The announcement at the weekend comes days after new GM chief executive Mary Barra visited Opel’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim and said the company’s plant there would get the job of building a new vehicle model. She reiterated a commitment to turn around the unit after years of losses. The deal by Opel management and employee representatives applies to plants in Ruesselsheim, Kaiserslautern and Eisenach. – Sapa-AP