Japan March manufacturing PMI hits 2-year low after quake

 TOKYO, March 31(Reuters) - Japanese manufacturing activity
slumped to a two-year low in March and posted its steepest
monthly decline on record as a devastating earthquake and
tsunami disrupted supply chains and production operations, a
survey showed on Thursday.	
 The Markit/JMMA Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers
Index (PMI) fell to a seasonally adjusted 46.4 in March, the
lowest since April 2009 and down from February's 52.9.	
 The survey, conducted between March 11 and March 25,
received only two-thirds of its average number of responses.	
 The data provided one of the first quantitative assessments
of the severe damage to production from the March 11 quake and
tsunami in northeast Japan, which triggered a nuclear safety
crisis and widespread power shortages.	
 The headline index slipped below the 50 threshold that
separates contraction from expansion for the first time in three
months, while the extent of the drop from the previous month
exceeded those seen after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the
collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.	
 "Suppliers' delivery times lengthened at a survey record
pace amid widespread disruption in the supply chain resulting
from the disaster," said Alex Hamilton, economist at Markit.	
 "These delays could affect production in coming months and
drive input price inflation even higher than the two-and-a-half
year peak seen in March."	
 The output component of the PMI index dropped to 37.7 in
March, the lowest in two years, from 53.9 in February. The
decline was the fastest on record with a number of respondents
saying rolling blackouts and logistical problems in their supply
chains restricted production, the survey showed.	
 The index for new orders dropped to a two-year low of 39.6
from February's 54.3. Some manufacturers responded that
customers had to cancel or postpone orders.	
 The index for new export orders, a leading indicator of
Japanese exports, slipped to 49.5 in March from 54.0 the
previous month, but the fall was relatively mild and a number of
companies said sales grew in China and the United States, the
survey showed.	
 The input price index increased to 65.2, the highest since
September 2008, due to higher costs of raw materials such as
crude oil and naphtha.	
	
 (Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Edmund Klamann)	
 	
 

Japan March manufacturing PMI hits 2-year low after quake