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Kenya private sector defies May floods to post growth

Private sector activity in Kenya defied ravaging floods to grow at the fastest pace in more than one and a half years, largely helped by easing inflationary pressures and stabilising shilling, findings of a closely-watched monthly survey suggested Wednesday, June 5.

The Stanbic Kenya Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) — a month-on-month measure for private sector activity such as output, new orders and employment— rose to 51.8 in May from 50.1 a month earlier. The growth in the PMI index, the sharpest in 20 months, signals increased business in May compared to April. PMI readings above 50 signal growth in private sector business, while levels below that mark point to a contraction.

The growth in business activity defied the projection by corporate managers of a slowdown in deals following heavy flooding which started late April through last month, disrupting activities in key sectors of transport, education and trade.

The PMI findings, based on feedback from about 400 corporate managers, showed that services, manufacturing wholesale and retail sectors posted expansion in activity despite the flooding. Farming and construction activities, however, contracted during the month amidst floods which claimed more than 200 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of persons.

“Private sector activity was surprisingly strong in May, implying a further improvement in economic activity, as we had expected to see some impact from the recent floods,” Christopher Legilisho, an economist with South African-based Standard Bank, the parent firm of Stanbic Bank, wrote in the PMI report.

“Output and new orders recorded strong gains in May as firms reported increased consumer demand.”

Inflation, a measure of the increase in the cost of goods and services over the previous year, was largely unchanged in May at 5.1 percent on steading food and energy costs, slightly increased from 5.0 a month earlier.

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