The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) rose to 51.1 in July from June's 50.9, official data showed, marking the highest reading since March. Analysts had expected it to slow to 50.7. The 50-point mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
New export orders fell although at a slower pace than the previous month, indicating continued pressure on external demand. Companies continued to shed more employees than they hired, although the pace here also moderated. Production rose to a four-month high.
Imports in June rose for the first time since the health crisis hit the economy, as government stimulus stoked demand for commodities, while exports, fuelled by medical goods, also rose in a sign the recovery is gaining traction.