South Korea November manufacturing PMI ticks up to six-month high - survey

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's manufacturing activity in November grew the most in six months but the outlook was cloudy as growth in new orders won by the country's exporters slowed, a private-sector survey showed on Monday.

The HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index (PMI) of South Korea's manufacturing sector rose to a seasonally adjusted 50.4 in November from 50.2 in October, Markit Economics said, marking the highest reading since May.

The index stood above 50, the demarcation separating growth from contraction, in manufacturing activity for the second consecutive month, a welcome sign for Asia's fourth-largest economy still on an uneven pattern of recovery since late last year.

The sub-index for new export orders dipped to a seasonally adjusted 51.9 in November from 53.7 in October, suggesting a further acceleration in manufacturing activity would be difficult for the coming months.

"In the absence of even stronger output and new orders, the recovery will likely remain gradual," Ronald Man, economist at HSBC in Hong Kong, said in a statement. "Therefore, policymakers will likely maintain an accommodative stance for the time being."

South Korea's central bank has kept the policy interest rate unchanged at 2.50 percent since cutting it by 25 basis points in May. Many analysts expect it to hold the policy steady for a while and begin raising it from late next year.

Underscoring a still weak global demand, government data showed on Sunday that South Korea's exports in November grew only 0.2 percent from a year earlier, worse than a 2.8 percent gain tipped in a Reuters survey.

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo)