India's manufacturing activity expanded at its quickest pace in nearly eight years in January with robust growth in new orders and output, a private survey showed on Monday, suggesting the economy may be getting back on firmer footing.
In response to the jump in sales, factories hired new workers at the fastest rate in more than seven years.
If sustained, the improvement in business conditions could point to a gradual economic recovery in coming months, as forecasted by analysts in a Reuters poll last month, after growth slowed to a more than six-year low in the July-September quarter.
The Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, compiled by IHS Markit, jumped to 55.3 last month from 52.7 in December. It was the highest reading since February 2012 and above the 50-mark separating growth from contraction for the 30th straight month.
"The PMI results show that a notable rebound in demand boosted the growth of sales, input buying, production and employment as firms focused on rebuilding their inventories and expanding their capacities in anticipation of further increases in new business," Pollyanna De Lima, principal economist at IHS Markit, said.
A new orders sub-index that tracks overall demand hit its highest level since December 2014 and output grew at its fastest pace in over seven and a half years, pushing manufacturers to hire at the strongest rate since August 2012.
Meanwhile, both input costs and output prices rose at a slower pace, indicating overall inflation may have eased after hitting a more than five-year high of 7.35% in December, although probably not below the Reserve Bank of India's medium-term target of 4%.
That might keep the central bank, which cut its key interest rate by a cumulative 135 basis points last year, on the sidelines over the coming months.
"To complete the good news, there was also an uptick in business confidence as survey participants expect buoyant demand, new client wins, advertising and product diversification to boost output in the year ahead," added De Lima.