CBI survey of manufacturers’ order books at 18-year high

Survey follows other reports from the manufacturing sector suggesting it is picking up steam after a deep recession

Britain’s manufacturers ramped up production in December to keep up with rising demand, according to a survey that put their assessment of order books at an 18-year high.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said its poll of the sector also showed a pickup in export orders, driven by demand for chemicals and cars.

In the survey, 35% of firms reported that their total orders were above normal in December and 23% said they were below; that difference, of 12%, was the biggest since February 1995.

Growth in output volumes over the three months to December had remained robust and was broad-based, the CBI said. Fourteen out of 16 sectors reported growth, with motor vehicles and transport equipment the largest contributors.

Manufacturers expected output growth to continue over the coming three months, albeit at a somewhat slower pace, the survey indicated.

“While risks remain in the eurozone and beyond, this survey provides further evidence that the recovery is becoming more embedded,” said Stephen Gifford, the CBI’s director of economics.

Economists said the survey fanned hopes that the sector, which accounts for 10% of the UK economy, helped boost overall growth in the final quarter of this year.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, detected “very good news on the manufacturing front, with a robust CBI industrial trends survey for December indicating that the sector enjoyed a strong fourth quarter and is very well placed going into 2014 with domestic and export orders elevated”.

The survey follows other reports from the manufacturing sector suggesting it is picking up steam after a deep recession. Output from the sector is, however, still well below its pre-crisis level, and the latest official data showed exports falling.

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