Strong manufacturing survey allays fears over output slowdown

 
Peter Spence
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While the headline reading of the latest Confederation of British Industry (CBI) manufacturing survey looks weak, analysts are convinced that it paints a glowing picture of the UK's manufacturing sector.

After official estimates showed manufacturing output took a tumble in May, economy watchers have voiced concerns that the roaring expansion in the sector may be starting to stutter. The headline optimism balance is lower too, dropping from 33 to 19 this July.

Nonetheless, today's CBI survey should help to calm some nerves. Rob Wood, chief UK economist at Berenberg, says it's a "strong" survey, noting that optimism remains well above its long-run average of -3, and new orders are flying.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, says that the data shows the industry performing well, "as orders and hiring are on the up, and investment intentions for the year ahead are looking healthy across the board".

If there are downside risks to UK manufacturing, then they're international in nature, says Wood. He highlights growing geopolitical tensions as a risk to output growth. CBI's survey shows manufacturers' expectations for export orders rising, from 22 to 23, and export optimism still at 8, its average over the four quarters to January.

While the UK wouldn't be the first to feel the effects of an escalation of events in Ukraine, "these could knock manufacturers' confidence further in the next few months as the Putin effect spreads beyond eastern Europe and Germany," says Wood.

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