The Absa purchasing managers’ index (PMI) beat expectations in January, rising to 50.9 points from 46.7 in December. This was the first time since July that the index has come in above the neutral 50-point mark, suggesting the manufacturing sector has started the year on a relatively solid footing compared with 2016. Trading Economic had forecast an increase to 48.8 for January. The PMI, which is compiled by the Stellenbosch-based Bureau of Economic Research, showed that the index measuring expected business conditions in six months’ time surged to 70.3 — the best level since early 2010. Absa said it was somewhat surprising that respondents were so upbeat about future business conditions. The bank said in a statement that this could be due to manufacturers targeting the export market, which may benefit from an uptick in global demand, as reflected by the sustained high levels of PMI readings in the US, Europe and, to a lesser extent, China. The new sales orders index managed to rema...

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