Kenya's private sector activity fell in January, but at a slower rate than a month earlier, helped by improved performance in agriculture, construction and services, a survey showed on Monday. The Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 49.8 in January from 48.8 a month earlier. Readings above 50.0 signal growth in business activity, while those below point to a contraction. It is the fifth consecutive month that the reading has stayed below 50.

"Sector performances were split with falls in manufacturing and wholesale and retail offsetting expansions in agriculture, construction and services," the survey compilers wrote.

The survey said many companies also encountered slowing sales due to lower customer spending and cashflow problems, while others experienced higher sales.

Inflation rose to 6.9% year-on-year in January from 6.6% a month earlier, data from the statistics office showed.

"Surveyed firms still face pressure from both high import costs and taxation. Moreover, survey results indicate that business confidence for the year ahead is still subdued,” Christopher Legilisho, an economist at Stanbic Bank, said. (Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Toby Chopra)