UK manufacturing demand at level last seen in ’80s

The order books of UK manufacturers are at a multi—decade high, according to the CBI’s latest Industrial Trends Survey.

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Export orders also improved to a 22-year high, hitting similar peaks to those seen in 2011 and 2013.

The survey of almost 500 UK manufacturing companies found that total order books climbed to the highest level since August 1988.

This was reportedly underpinned by a broad-based improvement in 13 of the 17 sub-sectors, led by the food, drink & tobacco and chemicals sectors.

Export orders also improved to a 22-year high, hitting similar peaks to those seen in 2011 and 2013.

Output growth eased to the levels seen at the start of the year, on the back of slowdowns in the chemicals and mechanical engineering sectors, though remained robust historically. Firms expect a firm rise in production over the coming quarter.

But pricing pressures remain strong, with manufacturers continuing to expect a sharp rise in average selling prices, in line with the level seen last month. Stock adequacy dipped marginally, remaining below average.

CBI chief economist, Rain Newton-Smith explained: “Britain’s manufacturers are continuing to see demand for “Made in Britain” goods rise with the temperature. Total and export order books are at highs not seen for decades, and output growth remains robust.

“Nevertheless, with cost pressures remaining elevated it’s no surprise to see that manufacturers continue to have high expectations for the prices they plan to charge.

“To build the right future for Britain’s economy, manufacturers and workers, the government must put the economy first as it negotiates the country’s departure from the EU. This approach will deliver a deal that supports growth and raises living standards across the UK.”

Key findings:

  • 27% of manufacturers reported total order books to be above normal, and 12% said they were below normal, giving a rounded balance of +16%. This was the highest level seen in nearly three decades, since August 1988 (+17%)
  • 23% of firms said their export order books were above normal, and 10% said they were below normal, giving a balance of +13%. This was the highest balance since June 1995 (+20%)
  • 30% of businesses said the volume of output over the past three months was up, and 15% said it was down, giving a balance of +15% – a decline from the balance of +28% seen in May
  • Manufacturers expect output to grow at the same robust pace in the coming quarter, with 37% predicting growth, and 9% a decline, giving a rounded balance of +27%
  • Average selling prices are still expected to rise in line with the level seen in May (+23%), having eased from their peak in February (+32%)
  • 13% of firms said their present stocks of finished goods are more than adequate, while 11% said they were less adequate, giving a balance of +2%, remaining below the average (+13%).