The listeria outbreak, recent labour strikes, and the VAT hike in April contributed to the Standard Bank purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropping slightly to 50.4 points from 51.1 in March.

The slowdown in April’s PMI was largely driven by the output sub-index, which outweighed continued increases in other major PMI sub-indices, such as new orders, employment and stock of purchases.

Good news in the survey was firms bringing in new business at a faster pace. The survey, sponsored by Standard Bank and produced by Markit, looks at the whole economy in contrast to the Absa sponsored PMI, which focuses on manufacturing.

Readings above the neutral 50 show an expansion in the sector.

Standard Bank economist Thanda Sithole said: "Over the near term, the PMI should continue showing signs of improving domestic business conditions supported by the improved domestic political backdrop, looser monetary policy and stable ratings outlook."

He added that the survey has also shown significant improvement in domestic consumer confidence, which is expected to improve the PMI further.

Earlier this week, the Absa PMI, which measures sentiment in the manufacturing sector, beat analysts expectations and rose above the neutral 50-mark again in April, after briefly spiking above 50 in February.

The Absa PMI index rose by four points to 50.9 in April. The PMI finally breached the 50-mark in February, rising to 50.8, but fell markedly in March to 46.9.