TOKYO, (Reuters) - Japanese manufacturing activity expanded in October at the fastest rate in six months as new export orders returned to growth, a preliminary survey showed on Wednesday, a sign most companies have so far avoided damage from trade frictions.
The Flash Markit/Nikkei Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a seasonally adjusted 53.1 in October from a final 52.5 in September.
The index remained above the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the 26th consecutive month and reached the highest level since April.
“Export sales rose for the first time since May, despite several respondents highlighting problems arising from global trade tensions,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.
“That said, next month’s data will be important to assess whether the latest growth rebound is a transitory response to weakness resulting from recent natural disasters.”
The index for new export orders rose to a preliminary 51.7 from a final 49.8 in September.
The United States and China have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on each other in recent months, and plans for bilateral trade talks to resolve the dispute have stalled.
Japan is potentially at risk as it exports to exports manufacturing equipment and electronic parts, which are used to make finished goods for the United States and other markets.
Confidence among Japanese manufacturers rose in October from September but is expected to remain flat over the coming three months, a Reuters tankan survey showed last week.
That suggested there is still some caution about over how the trade row between the United States and China will affect the global economy.
Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Richard Borsuk