Indian manufacturing grew at its slowest pace in four months in March, hampered by a softer rise in both output and new business, according to a survey released on Thursday.

Data analytics firm IHS Markit said the reading for its manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) came in at 51.8 in March, down from 54.5 in February.

A PMI above 50 shows an expansion when compared with the previous month, but the index’s value for March shows the slowest improvement in business conditions since November 2019, said IHS Markit. The manufacturing sector saw a record decline in new export orders, too, as international demand plunged amid the global coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic also hit supply with vendors’ delivery times lengthening for the first time in five months.

"New orders and output both grew at softer rates, but those readings were relatively tame compared to those seen at goods producers in Europe and other parts of Asia. The most prominent signs of trouble came from the new export orders and future activity indices, which respectively indicated tumbling global demand and softening domestic confidence,” said Eliot Kerr, economist, IHS Markit.

Based on a survey of 400 manufacturers, IHS Markit’s report also warned that the manufacturing sector could be further impacted going forward.

"Should the trajectory of infections continue in the same vein, the Indian manufacturing sector can expect a much sharper negative impact in the coming months, similar to the scale seen in other countries,” said Kerr.

In a separate report, JP Morgan and IHS Markit say that the outbreak of the Coronavirus has caused a disruption across the global manufacturing sector in March, while business confidence slumped to a record low.

“Output fell sharply as intakes of new business contracted at the fastest pace since March 2009. The impact also reverberated through supply chains, with vendor lead times lengthening to a near-record extent, and in labour markets as companies cut staff headcounts,” the report said.

As of April 2, India has a total of 1,764 active Coronavirus cases and has recorded 50 deaths, according to the health ministry. Globally, the number of confirmed cases stood at 937,783, while the number of deaths was at 47,273, according to data collected by the John Hopkins University.

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