Global manufacturing growth accelerated slightly last month but remained weak as firms again turned to existing orders to keep active, a business survey showed on Monday.
JPMorgan's Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), produced with Markit, nudged up to 51.2 in May from April's near two-year low of 51.0.
May was the 30th month the index has been above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction, but some of that activity was again driven by running down old orders.
The backlogs of work sub-index came in at 49.5, its second month below breakeven.
"May PMI data signalled mild improvements in both the rates of expansion in global manufacturing production and new orders," said David Hensley, a director at JPMorgan. "Although the trend in international trade flows remains weak and a drag on the sector's improvement, the bounces in the other indices still put us on course for a mid-year growth acceleration."
Factories did increase headcount faster than last month as new orders picked up slightly, although it was still only at a moderate pace.
The global PMI combines survey data from countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia.