The UK manufacturing sector (which accounts for about 10% of Britain’s economy) maintained a steady pace of growth in March.
Britain’s factories increased production last month, an unexpected turn as the sector also experienced its weakest quarter in a year.
The PMI was its lowest in a year, though above average since Britain exited recession in the third quarter of 2009. The slowdown was in part caused by higher inflation after June 2016’s Brexit vote knocked sterling.
Manufacturing outgrowth had remained steadily above 1% towards the end of last year but may have fallen to about 0.5%, however activity jumped to 55.1 from 55 in February, beating economists’ forecasts for a fall in growth rate.
The latest PMI figures showed a rise in production for the 20th successive month, with solid inflows of new work from both domestic and overseas markets.
This shook off concerns that heavy snowfall from the ‘beat from the east’ would trigger a slowdown, and prompted experts to say it should help the economy to overcome weak high street spending in the first few months of 2018.
The survey of manufacturers used for compiling the PMI figures showed that almost 55% of companies forecast that output will be higher in 12 months’ time.
Rob Dobson, a director at HIS Markit said: “With cost inflationary pressures also moderating to provide some respite for margins, the sector looks set to make further slow and steady progress as we head through the spring.”
“The key question is whether growth can now be sustained, albeit at a lower level, into the coming months,” he added.