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[SEOUL] South Korea's manufacturing activity shrank for a fourth consecutive month in December but at a slower pace, a private-sector survey showed on Friday, adding to signs that the economy may be slowly regaining its footing heading into 2015.
The HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index (PMI) on South Korea's manufacturing sector rose to a seasonally adjusted 49.9 in December from 49.0 in November.
It just missed the 50-point mark which separates expansion from contraction but was the highest reading since August.
A sub-index on new export orders improved for a second straight month, though it too remained in contraction territory for a ninth straight month at 49.2, compared with 48.8 in November.
The findings came after data on Tuesday showed November industrial output growth hit a four-month high, although government officials were wary of saying the economy is recovering at full speed.
Inflation data on Wednesday underscored still weak confidence among South Korean consumers and companies, as consumer prices grew at the slowest clip in more than 15 years in December on an annual basis.
Exports have also proved erratic for the trade-reliant economy this year. Exports and imports both weakened for the first 20 days of this month from a year earlier, customs data showed.
The government introduced a series of stimulus measures and the central bank cut interest rates twice in recent months to re-energise Asia's fourth-largest economy, and economists expect another rate cut in early 2015.