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South Africa's private sector expands at slightly slower rate in April

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JOHANNESBURG, May 6 (Reuters) - Business activity in South Africa's private sector expanded at a slightly slower rate in April but new orders continued to rise and companies stepped up hiring, a survey showed on Wednesday.

South Africa's HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) inched lower to 51.5 in April from 51.6 in March, but stayed above the 50 mark, indicating growth in activity.

Companies surveyed reported improving demand and increases in new business.

"South Africa's private sector economy entered the second quarter on a positive note, with output and new orders rising further," said Oliver Kolodseike, an economist at financial information services firm Markit, which helped compile the survey.

Private companies hired staff at the fastest rate in six months, lifting the employment sub-index to 52.6 from 50.3 in March, to cope with increased business requirements, HSBC said.

"Employment growth accelerated and companies reported spare capacity, signalling scope to deal with higher workloads in coming months," Kolodseike said, cautioning that output was mostly driven by domestic demand while export growth slowed.

-- Detailed PMI data is only available under licence from Markit and customers need to apply to Markit for a licence. To subscribe to the full data, click on the link below: http://www.markit.com/Contact-Us For further information, please phone Markit on +44 20 7260 2454 or email economics@markit.com

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Susan Fenton)

((mfuneko.toyana@thomsonreuters.com; +27117753153; Reuters Messaging: mfuneko.toyana.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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