ROME (Reuters) - Italian manufacturing activity expanded for the ninth straight month in March, a survey showed on Tuesday, suggesting the very timid return to economic growth that began at the end of last year will stretch into 2014.
The Markit/ADACI Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) came in at 52.4, up slightly from 52.3 in February, and edging further above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.
The reading was above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts of 52.1.
The new orders sub-index fell to 52.8 from 53.3 in February, while a sub-index measuring employment also eased. A sub-index measuring output rose.
Official data shows the euro zone's third-largest economy grew by a marginal 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the first expansion since the middle of 2011. Exports drove the increase, while domestic demand remained weak.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Hugh Lawson