Italy's manufacturing sector grew strongly in December, albeit at a slightly slower rate than in November, as the economy continued to rebound despite rising COVID-19 infections, a survey showed on Monday.

The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for Italian manufacturing came in at 62.0 in December against a record 62.8 registered in November.

December's reading, which was the 18th consecutive month above the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction, beat the median forecast of 61.6 in a Reuters survey of 10 analysts.

The new orders sub-index remained buoyant at 63.0 -- the fourth-highest reading on record and only slightly down on the 63.7 registered in November.

The economic outlook has been clouded recently by an increase in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant, with Italy posting record numbers of new cases as it headed into the holiday season.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi says the Italian economy likely expanded in 2021 by more than the government's official 6.0% forecast and is predicting growth of 4.7% in 2022.

That follows the record 8.9% contraction registered in 2020, when the economy was crippled by coronavirus lockdowns.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)