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Production by manufacturers sees highest growth for more than 20 years – CBI

25 July 2017

Is this the end of austerity? Manufacturing output growth reaches a 22-year high.

Production by UK manufacturers in the three months to July grew at its fastest rate since January 1995, according to the latest quarterly Industrial Trends Survey from the CBI.

The survey also found that employee headcount increased at the fastest rate for three years and that hiring intentions for the coming quarter have improved. Optimism rose marginally in the three months to July, while export optimism for the year ahead rose at a slower but still healthy pace.

Domestic orders expanded at a strong pace, similar to the rate in the previous quarter, and growth in export orders also remained brisk, despite slowing somewhat.

Output growth is expected to continue to grow strongly in the quarter ahead and manufacturers are upbeat about prospects for overall demand.

Domestic orders are expected to continue growing strongly, while expectations for growth in export orders improved to a four-decade high on the back of the weakness of Sterling. Alongside robust expectations for demand, firms accumulated raw materials at the fastest pace since April 1977 and stocks of work-in-progress expanded at a record rate.

Against this backdrop, investment intentions improved across the board, particularly for training and retraining, where planned growth in spending for the year ahead is the highest in more than two years. Industry analysist have blamed the lack of training as one of the reasons for the UK's low level of productivity.

Meanwhile, input cost pressures, again largely due to the fall in the value of Sterling, cooled in the quarter to July thanks to a fall in oil proces and are expected to soften further in the near-term, while factory gate price inflation is also expected to be more subdued as exchange rate inflation following the referendum last year falls out of the system.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, says: "Output growth among UK manufacturers is the highest we’ve seen since the mid '90s, prompting the strongest hiring spree we’ve seen in the past three years. Cost pressures are easing and firms are upbeat about the outlook for export orders.

"It’s great to see the benefits from the decline in Sterling for UK exporters feeding through. But the flipside is the broader hit to consumer spending power across the economy from stronger inflation, which is likely to have fuelled the slowdown in the economy in Q1 and is expected to pull down growth in Q2.”


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