SINGAPORE - Manufacturing output expanded for the first time in more than a year in September, though economists were hesitant to call this a recovery given the weak global outlook.
The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) - an early indicator of manufacturing activity - came in at 50.1 last month, up from the 49.8 reading in August. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, and vice versa.
Singapore's PMI had been in contractionary territory since last June.
Last month's uptick was attributed to an increase in new domestic and export orders, as well as a faster rate of expansion of inventory and finished goods.
However, manufacturing employment, which has been contracting since November 2014, remained lacklustre.
The data is compiled by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management from a monthly poll of purchasing executives at about 150 industrial firms.
The survey also showed that the PMI for the electronics sector came in at 50.3 - the second straight month of expansion following 13 months of contractionary readings.
This was attributed to a rise in new domestic and export orders as well as increased factory output.
Manufacturers elsewhere in the region also appeared to be on firmer footing last month.
Activity in China's manufacturing sector expanded again in September - the official PMI stood at 50.4, identical with the previous month's level. A private survey - the Caixin manufacturing PMI - rose to 50.1 from a no-change level of 50 in August.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's manufacturing PMI for September rose to 52.2, from 51.8 in August, the strongest reading in two years.
In South Korea, however, labour strikes in the auto sector weighed on the PMI reading, which came in at 47.6 from 48.6 in August.