Factory activity rises, bodes well for local manufacturers

THE battered manufacturing sector could finally be picking up with indicators pointing to more activity in the sector.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), an early pointer of the industry's health, came in at 50.6 last month, the highest since May 2011. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

What was even more promising was that firms were also reporting rising demand for goods.

The new orders index, for example, rose to 51.9 in March, the highest level since 53.9 recorded in April 2011.

There was similar improvement in the production index - up 2.4 points in March to 50.8, the strongest level in more than six months.

The positive readings are the latest in a series of improving factory data across Asia.

China's PMI for March rose to 50.9 while South Korea's shot up to 52 last month from 50.9 in February.