Australia manufacturing survey shows weakness in Dec

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A measure of Australian manufacturing fell in December as firms reported a sharp drop in new orders even as employment showed signs of life, a survey showed on Monday.

The Australian Industry Group's performance of manufacturing index (PMI) fell 3.2 points to 46.9, and back below the 50 level that is supposed to mark the threshold between contraction and expansion.

Most of the weakness came in the sub index of new orders which sank 10.6 points in December to 43.7. In contrast, the survey's measure of employment climbed 4.7 points to 52.5, mainly in the food and beverages, textiles, clothing and furniture, and non-metallic mineral products sectors.

The survey has been persistently weaker than official measures of manufacturing, implying the sector has been deep in recession for almost all of the past five years.