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SA business grows at fastest rate in 22 months

HSBC said stronger demand from African countries saw new export orders rise in October.

FILE: South African business activity expanded at the fastest pace in 22 months in October. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - South African business activity expanded at the fastest pace in 22 months in October as output and new orders grew substantially, a survey showed on Wednesday. The HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the rose to 52.7 in October, from 52.6 in September.

HSBC said stronger demand from African countries saw new export orders rise in October, while overall demand meant companies continued to increase staff numbers.

"While the lingering effects of protracted industrial action weighed on economic growth in Q3, it is evident that current demand conditions are relatively robust, and more supportive of a rebound in GDP growth at the end of the year," said David Faulkner, an economist at HSBC.

South Africa is trying to drag itself out of a slump after work stoppages in the mining and manufacturing sectors knocked output in the first half of the year.

The PMI survey showed high input costs due to a weak rand exchange rate, resulting in the sharpest cost inflation rate since April, which companies sometimes passed on to consumers.

The rand is down more than 5 percent against the dollar so far this year and has seen consumer inflation breach the central bank's 3-6 percent target band, although the latest data shows prices moderated in September.