After a midmonth estimate put manufacturing expansion at a six-month low, April's final numbers don't look much better, according to a Markit report (link opens a PDF) released today.

The Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell 4.6% to 52.1 for April, compared to March's 54.6 reading and a previous April "flash" estimate of 52. Analysts' expectations of a 52 reading were essentially on-the-dot.

Although an above-50 reading signals improvements from the preceding month, this latest report signals the weakest expansion since October 2012.

Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson made the following remarks in a statement today:

The PMI survey suggests that the economy is showing signs of yet another 'spring swoon' as it moves into the second quarter, linked to a softening of demand in the home market. Manufacturers had reported the best quarter for two years in the first three months of the year, but a steep downturn in growth of orders in April suggests that this impressive performance could be shortlived. Firms have responded quickly to weaker growth of orders by limiting growth of both output and employment.

Despite new order growth rates hitting a six-month low, there are some reasons for optimism. Williamson pointed to steady growth in export orders (a 51.8 for March and April) as well as further "easing" of inflationary pressures as ways to keep manufacturing demand high and the economy in full recovery mode.