South Africa's manufacturing production fell by 5.9% in December 2019 compared with December 2018, Stats SA announced on Tuesday.
This was the seventh consecutive month of decline, and the biggest year-on-year fall since July 2014, when production slumped by -7% according to Stats SA data.
The biggest decline was in the motor vehicles, parts and accessories and other transport equipment sector, where annual output fell by -24,9%.
The contraction was broadly above the estimates of economists. Ahead of the announcement on Tuesday, NKC African Economics projected that local manufacturing production would contract by 4.7% in December. Business Unity South Africa, meanwhile, expected a contraction of about 4%.
Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa economist Marique Kruger, said in a statement that the weak manufacturing data would dampen the mood ahead President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation address on Thursday.
"The general decrease in output is not good for struggling businesses in the manufacturing sector, including its diverse [Metals and Engineering] cluster of industries which are continuously facing headwinds underpinned by stagnant domestic demand, unpredictable and costly energy supply, high petrol prices and logistics costs," Kruger said.