The Absa purchasing managers’ index (PMI) staged a surprise recovery and rose to 50.9 in January, suggesting that manufacturers got off to a better start in 2017 than predicted. The index reading for December was 46.7. The index had been below the 50 neutral level since July 2016 and economists had forecast little improvement. A reading below 50 suggests contraction, while one above that mark indicates there is appetite for expansion. BNP Paribas economist Jeffrey Schultz said: "A move back into expansionary territory for four of the five subcomponents of the PMI is encouraging and points to a better start to the year for domestic manufacturers." Bureau for Economic Research economist Lisette IJssel de Schepper said improved sentiment about business conditions among factory managers surveyed for the index was a surprise. "Manufacturers targeting the export market may expect to benefit from an uptick in global demand, as reflected by the sustained high levels of PMI readings in the U...

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