The Absa Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index edged lower to 49.9 points in January, down from reading of 50.7 in December, according to a report released Friday by Stellenbosch University's Bureau for Economic Research.
The BER said that despite the decline below the neutral 50-point mark, the index remains 2 points above the average recorded in 2018, which "suggests the sector started the year on a fairly solid footing".
Four out of the PMI's five subindices declined in January, compared to December.
The BER said that a "somewhat surprising" outcome was the rise in the expected business conditions index, which tracks expected business conditions in six months' time.
It registered its third consecutive improvement, rising by another 15.7 points in January.
"The current level of 67.2 points is the best level since April 2018, and about 9 points above the average recorded in 2018," said the BER.