UPDATE 1-Mexican manufacturing rose in Dec for third straight month

Wed Jan 2, 2013 11:09am EST

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MEXICO CITY Jan 2 (Reuters) - The pace of growth in Mexico's manufacturing sector rose in December for the third straight month in a sign that the country's factories are holding up amid a wider global slowdown, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The HSBC Mexico Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 57.1 in December, after adjusting for seasonal variation, up from 55.6 in November. December's reading was the highest since the survey was launched in April 2011.

"This suggests that the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector is helping offset external headwinds," said Sergio Martin, HSBC's chief economist in Mexico.

The rise in sentiment was lifted by the strongest monthly increase in new orders since the survey started.

The reading above 50 indicated factory activity continued to expand.

Mexico's economy is expected to have grown around 3.9 percent in 2012, with growth seen s lowi ng this year to 3.5 percent. U.S. demand for local exports has helped shield Mexico from a recession in Europe and slower growth in Asia.

Mexico sends almost 80 percent of its exports to the United States and its factories operate in near lock-step with their counterparts north of the border.

The survey's component rating output also hit its highest since the study began, but the sub-index for employment fell to its lowest in 10 months.

Mexico's jobless rate rose for the second month in a row in November to its highest since March.

The HSBC survey also showed input prices, or the cost of parts used in the manufacturing process, rose at their slowest pace in the survey's 21-month series history.

Mexican inflation eased more than expected in early December as consumer prices continue to cool from a spike to a 2-1/2 year high in September. [ ID:nL4N09V4DD]

The PMI index, compiled by Markit, is composed of five sub-indexes tracking changes in new orders, output, employment, suppliers' delivery times and stocks of raw materials and finished goods.

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