[SEOUL] South Korea's manufacturing activity shrank for a fifth consecutive month in July but the pace eased slightly from June, a private-sector survey showed on Monday, as the export-reliant economy struggles to regain momentum.
The Nikkei/Markit purchasing managers' index (PMI) on South Korea's manufacturing sector edged up to 47.6 in July from 46.1 in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, Markit Economics said in a statement.
The June reading was the lowest since September 2012, coinciding with the height of the deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The index stayed below the 50-mark that separates expansion and contraction for a fifth straight month.
A sub-index on new export orders barely budged, ticked up to 47.8 in July, from 47.6 for June, also staying below the 50-mark for a fifth straight month - highlighting the continued weakness in external demand that has knocked the export-reliant economy.
The survey also showed local manufacturers cut back on employment in July, with jobs shed at their fastest pace since November 2014.
The latest read on the economy comes after South Korea factory output data for June reversed from a three-month contraction, but analysts said it's too early to be optimistic as the economy still faces downside risks from both sluggish global demand and domestic consumption.