The seasonally-adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) declined to 46.2 index points in February 2019, down from 49.9 in January. “Despite the decline, the average recorded during the first two months of Quarter 1 of 2019 is slightly above the average seen in Quarter 4 of 2018”, noted the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) in its February report.
Two of the PMI’s main sub-components came in above the neutral 50-point mark, while three sub-components registered below that level.
Disappointingly, after three months of above-50 readings, in February, the New Sales Orders Index fell to just 42.9 index points.
Respondents reported that domestic demand and exports weakened during the month. The deterioration in overall demand negatively affected production. The return of loadshedding at the start of February likely also weighed on the Business Activity Index, which fell for a second month in February.
Despite the decline in activity, the Employment Index remained more-or-less unchanged. While this index is below the neutral 50-point mark, it remains above its long-term average reading.
On a positive note, manufacturers reported a breather from a further deceleration in cost increases. The Purchasing Price Index declined for a fifth straight month to reach 69.6 in February, aided by a fairly stable Rand exchange rate. However, going forward, cost pressures may tick up as the fuel price increased on the back of a higher international oil price, which may snap the downward trend in the PMI’s Purchasing Price Index in March.
Respondents remain fairly upbeat about business conditions going forward. The index tracking expected business conditions in six months’ time declined slightly in February, but, at 65.9, remains well above levels seen throughout the second half of 2018.
After two consecutive declines, the Inventories Index rose by 6 points to reach 52.8 in February. This is the highest level since March 2017.
The Purchasing Commitments Index rose by a solid 8.2 points to reach 50 points. The current level means that purchasing commitments remained the same compared with January.