China’s manufacturing growth accelerated for the first time in four months, easing concern that monetary tightening may lead to a sharp slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 53.4 in March from 52.2 in February, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said in a statement on its website today. The reading compared with the median forecast of 54 in a Bloomberg News survey of 17 economists.

Premier Wen Jiabao is seeking to restrain surging prices for homes and consumer goods while sustaining economic growth to create jobs and maintain social stability. Inflation topped the government’s target in the first two months of this year and officials will boost interest rates again this quarter according to all 20 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

“Concern about a sharp downturn is unwarranted at this stage,” Lu Zhengwei, a Shanghai-based economist at Industrial Bank Co. said before today’s release. “The economy remains in solid shape and officials are likely to maintain their current policy stance.”

A reading above 50 for the PMI indicates an expansion. The manufacturing survey, released by the logistics federation and the National Bureau of Statistics, covers more than 820 companies in 20 industries, including energy, metals, textiles, automobiles and electronics.

The central bank has boosted interest rates three times and raised banks’ reserve requirements six times since mid-October. Inflation held at 4.9 percent in February, compared with the government’s 4 percent target for the full year.

China’s economy is expanding at “a stable and relatively rapid pace” and growth in money supply and credit is “moving in the expected direction,” the People’s Bank of China said on March 28 after a monetary policy meeting.

--Zheng Lifei. Editors: Nerys Avery, Paul Panckhurst