SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's manufacturing activity expanded in February at the strongest rate in nine months as new export orders rose by the sharpest pace since the second half of 2011, a private survey showed on Monday.
The HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index (PMI) of South Korea's manufacturing sector rose to a seasonally adjusted 50.9 in February from 49.9 in January, rising above the 50-mark separating growth from contraction, Markit Economics said.
February's reading was the second in three months indicating an expansion as well as the highest since May 2012. During the month, the sub-index for new export orders rose to a seasonally adjusted 51.7, the highest since July 2011.
The pick up in activity suggests that global demand is starting to recover, as South Korea is home to some of the world's largest manufacturers of cars, ships and smartphones.
South Korean exports fell by 8.6 per cent from a year earlier in February, weighed by fewer working days stemming from the Chinese New Year holidays, as well as a decline in price competitiveness stemming from the Japanese yen's rapid depreciation.
But the HSBC/Markit survey suggests that the impact of the yen's decline has not so far been strong enough to derail a recovery for South Korean manufacturers.