ASEAN manufacturers struggling with virus and curbs, index shows

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Factory output across South-East Asia is likely at its lowest since May last year, going by a monthly survey of around 2,100 factories, which have been impacted by coronavirus and related restrictions.

According to IHS Markit, which on Monday published its regional Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for July, “the resurgence of Covid-19 cases and subsequent tightening of some containment measures saw demand slump further.”

The PMI for seven economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional bloc, “sunk to a 13-month low of 44.6” last month, IHS Markit said.

A reading of below 50 on the index suggests declining business conditions and factory output.

The lowest reading, of slightly over 30, was reported in Myanmar.

The country’s economy has come to a near-standstill since the army seized power six months ago, with many sectors reporting strikes in protest at the coup.

Street demonstrations have been met with harsh military reprisals, while recent weeks have seen the country struggle with a rise in coronavirus case numbers.

The second lowest readings were reported in Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which have seen months of rising virus case numbers and deaths, and, in the case of Malaysia, strict curbs on businesses imposed by as part of a “total” lockdown.

Factory managers in the Philippines reported a slight improvement in outlook, with the index for July climbing a notch above 50.

In Singapore, a wealthy city-state where exporting manufacturers of electronics and pharmaceuticals have thrived during the pandemic, the index topped 56.

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