In the UK, factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in 15 years in January, according to a survey.
The CIPS/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ index jumped to 56.7 last month from an upwardly revised 54.6 in December.
It was the highest since October 1994 and well above analysts’ forecasts for a reading of 54.0.
The improvement, outlined in yesterday’s report, came as new orders rose at their fastest pace in six years – fuelled by stronger domestic and export demand – and output growth hit a peak last reached in June 2006.
The PMI survey has been signalling a recovery for several months but Britain only limped out of recession at the end of 2009 – growing by a slim 0.1 per cent in the last quarter.
Markit economist Rob Dobson said: “The survey raises hopes that the sluggish recovery from recession signalled by GDP data in the final quarter of last year will have gained momentum as we move into 2010”
Howard Archer from Global Insight said: “The survey provides a very welcome surprise – which is encouraging after the fourth quarter GDP data.”
There was also some positive data on jobs in the survey, with the numbers employed in the sector rising for the first time in 21 months.
In the US, the Institute for Supply Management’s index of national factory activity rose to 58.4 in January, its highest level since 2004, from 54.9 in December.
And export orders in China boomed in January, with the economy continuing to expand despite government attempts to curb bank lending. The HSBC Manufacturing Purchase Managers’ index, which measures industrial output for the region, rose to a record high of 57.4.