CBI trends show growth in manufacturing optimism

Of the 555 UK manufacturers responding to the closely-watched survey, 8 per
cent of companies described the volume of their total order books as above
normal, while 56 per cent said they were below normal. That gave a balance
of -48 per cent — an improvement on the -54 per cent reading for August.

There was also a slight improvement on the reading for export order books,
with 7 per cent of manufacturers reporting that they were above normal,
while 53 per cent said that they were below normal. That gives a balance of
-46 per cent — up from -48 per cent in August.

The reading for expectations during coming months also showed an improvement.
Of the companies questioned, 27 per cent said that they expected production
to fall during the coming quarter, while 25 per cent said that they expected
their output to rise. That gave a reading of -2 per cent — up from the
reading of -5 per cent for August. The CBI said that this was the least
negative prediction since June last year.

Ian McCafferty, the CBI’s chief economic adviser, warned that, despite the
improvement, circumstances remained tough for manufacturers. He highlighted
the fact that export order book levels were well below normal despite the
relative weakness of sterling and pointed out that this was the 15th
consecutive month where a negative balance has been recorded for the
headline reading.

He added: “The end of the dramatic de-stocking that characterised the first
half of the year has allowed manufacturing output to stabilise, but order
books remain depressed, and the outlook uncertain.

But Howard Archer, chief UK economist at consultancy IHS Global Insight, said
that the figures were good news — pointing out that the headline reading was
the best for eight months.

He said: “The survey for September showed significant improvement, thereby
reinforcing belief that the manufacturing sector is set to make a positive
contribution to GDP in the third quarter and help the economy return to

Mr Archer said that the improvement in expectations for the coming quarter
reflected recently improved orders and lower stock levels.

He added: “The manufacturing sector is currently benefiting appreciably from
sharply reduced stock levels, while the relatively weak pound is helping the
sector by making UK manufacturers more competitive in their domestic markets
as well as through helping exporters.

“On top of this, demand is showing signs of picking up at least temporarily in
important overseas markets as well as at home.

“Nevertheless, the CBI survey is still far from robust and it is evident that
manufacturers are far from out of the woods as serious doubts remain about
the strength of demand over the medium term, particularly once stimulative
measures start being withdrawn.”