TOKYO -- The Nikkei ASEAN Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI, rose slightly to 50.3 in February from 50.0 in January.
A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion, while a reading below 50 points toward contraction. February's PMI recorded the above-50 level for the first time since September 2016.
Among the nations, Vietnam marked the strongest growth at 54.2, registering the best improvement in operating conditions for 21 months. This was followed by the Philippines and Myanmar at 53.6 and 51.9, respectively.
Overall, operating conditions improved in most of the ASEAN economies, with the exception of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, according to IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.
"Broad improvements were observed in most countries in the region. But individually, economies' manufacturing industries were still growing at different speeds," said Bernard Aw, an economist at IHS Markit. "This was reflected in the substantial variation in business confidence across ASEAN manufacturers."
"In part, fairly weak demand for ASEAN goods explained the confidence divergence, especially for countries that depend more on overseas demand for growth. Recent weakness in regional currencies has not seen to provide a boost to foreign demand, but instead aggravated a rising cost environment," the economist added.
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