South African manufacturing activity accelerated in December as businesses benefited from fewer power cuts in the holiday period, a survey showed on Monday.

The seasonally-adjusted Absa Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 50.9 points in December from 48.2 in November, rising above the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction for the first time since April.

The sub-index measuring business activity rose to 51.4 in December from 46.0 the previous month, despite a slight decrease in new sales orders. The index tracking expected business conditions in six months' time also increased significantly.

"It was somewhat surprising to see respondents turn notably more optimistic about business conditions over the longer term," bank Absa which sponsors the PMI survey said in a statement.

"It could reflect some hope that the worst of the local rail and port challenges will be behind us by mid-2024 and that load-shedding (electricity outages) could be less intense than last winter."

Africa's most industrialised economy has suffered power cuts for more than a decade which have held back growth, reaching record levels last year lasting up to 10 hours a day.


(Reporting by Nellie Peyton Editing by Alexander Winning)