New Zealand's manufacturing activity rose in February after a dip in January when momentum waned in the building sector.

The Bank of New Zealand-BusinessNZ performance of manufacturing index was a seasonally adjusted 55.2 in January, 3 points higher than January and the highest level of expansion since September last year.

The manufacturing sector has remained in expansion in almost every month since October 2012, buoyed by a construction boom that started in the post-earthquakes Christchurch rebuild and has extended to Auckland's housing market.

"It was good to see New Zealand's Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) bounce in February. Had it not, we would have become a little apprehensive about the way it was going," said BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert.


The PMI's new orders component "aided the positive tone," he said, noting the production index was also back above its long-term average. Data this week showed the economy expanded less than expected in the fourth quarter of last year, partly weighed by weak manufacturing output.

Ebert said today's PMI data suggests that weak result was "transitory rather than the start of a genuine struggle." BNZ is expecting a "decent rebound" in manufacturing in the first quarter and "the PMI very much supports this," he said.

Today's figures show the PMI's production sub-index rose to 56.8 in February versus 51.7 in January. Employment was largely unchanged at 51.4 versus 51.6 in the prior month. New orders rose to 57.2 versus 53.1, finished stocks lifted to 55.1 from 50.9 while deliveries rose to 54 from 53.3.