Although registering below the 2018 average, the PMI was comfortably above the 50.0 no-change mark at the end of the first quarter.
A reading below the 50 neutral mark indicates no change from the previous month, while a reading below 50 indicates contractions and above 50 points to an expansion.
New orders rose for the fortieth month in a row during March amid increased customer numbers and growth of new export business. Moreover, the rate of expansion in total new orders was the fastest in three months.
The rate of growth in manufacturing production, meanwhile, quickened for the second successive month and was slightly faster than that seen for new business. This enabled firms to reduce their backlogs of work and add to stocks of finished goods. That said, the latest depletion of outstanding business was only marginal and the slowest in the current three-month sequence of decline.
The increase in output was recorded in spite of a slight reduction in staffing levels in March. Panelists suggested that employee resignations had hampered their efforts to expand workforce numbers in response to greater workloads
As has been the case throughout 2019 so far, inflationary pressures remained muted in the sector at the end of the first quarter. Input costs rose marginally and at a pace that was well below the series average. This lack of pressure on costs meant that firms were again able to offer discounts to customers.
Manufacturers in Vietnam responded to higher output requirements by increasing their purchasing activity sharply, with the rate of expansion the fastest in the year-to-date. Stocks of purchases decreased, however, as inputs were used to support production growth. The fall in input inventories was the second in as many months.
Almost half of all respondents to the latest survey predict output to increase over the coming year. Strong optimism reflected expected improvements in market demand and investment in expanding productive capacity. These factors are forecast to help firms meet their plans for higher output. Confidence was higher than in February and broadly in line with the series average.
“While still some way short of the strong growth rates recorded last year, the manufacturing PMI data for March suggest that Vietnamese firms have weathered the recent slowdown in global trade and were able to continue to secure greater new order volumes and expand production,” said Andrew Harker, associate director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.
“IHS Markit currently forecasts industrial production to grow 8.2% in 2019, with PMI data suggesting that the manufacturing sector will continue to contribute positively to this,” he added.
Source: Vietnam.net/ Nikkei, IHS Markit