Dismal PMI numbers for April signal dip in factory output in Asia

SINGAPORE - The tough times show no sign of letting up for manufacturers going by the dismal numbers out on Monday.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) - an early indicator of factory activity - fell again in April, the fifth straight month of decline.

The latest reading of 49.4 follows a score of 49.6 in March. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Manufacturing has been hit hard by ongoing restructuring, rising business costs and the strength of the Singapore dollar, which has made exports more expensive.

These factors were reflected in the April PMI, which pointed to a decline in both domestic and export orders amid tepid global demand.

Manufacturers' production, inventory and stocks of finished goods also declined, the data showed.

The PMI for the electronics cluster, which makes up a third of the manufacturing sector, sank to 49.1 in April after coming in at 50.1 in March.

This was the result of declines in new domestic and export orders, production, finished goods and imports.

It was a similarly gloomy story elsewhere in the region. China's official PMI came in at 50.1, the weakest April reading since the series started in 2005.

South Korea's PMI fell to a six-month low of 48.8 in April on the back of poor export data while Taiwan's number fell to a 21-month low of 49.2, from 51 the month before.