Growth slows but outlook remains positive for United Kingdom manufacturers

China PMI China manufacturing China factory

A composite PMI covering both the manufacturing and services activity stood at 52.9 in February, down from January's reading of 54.6, but stayed well above the 50-mark that separates expansion from contraction. Trade risksBoosted by government infrastructure spending, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports, China's manufacturing and industrial firms were a major driver behind the solid economic growth past year.

IHS Markit said the figures suggested output growth so far this year had slowed dramatically to a three-monthly rate of 0.4%, compared with a more robust 1.3% in the last three months of 2017. "In spite of the rise in purchasing activity, preproduction inventories remained broadly unchanged, as increases in output offset the expansion in buying", it said.

The sector, however, showed a hike in output as it rose for seventh straight month in February albeit at a small rate, due to improved economic conditions. Similarly, new export orders rose for the fourth consecutive month, despite softening from January's 16-month high. Indeed, the continued rise in export orders and an uplift in new orders from the domestic market provided evidence that the foundations for continued growth were still buoyant.

Improving business conditions in Southeast Asia's largest economy made manufacturing companies decide to add staff-members, hence payrolls rose for the first time in almost a year-and-a-half.

"We've probably seen a peak in growth rates", said Florian Hense, European economist at Berenberg in London.

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"That said, the level of business confidence slightly fell from January and was weaker than the average recorded over five-and-a-half years of data collection". Meanwhile, the rate of input cost inflation remained elevated and firms raised their selling prices again, albeit at a slightly reduced pace.

A slowdown in the stellar expansion across the eurozone past year had also played a part in British firms experiencing lower growth, he said.

However, a key concern remains the ability of manufacturing companies to pass on higher input costs, as output charge inflation was only modest.

In short, the picture is one of slowing manufacturing expansion, accompanied by rising momentum in price inflation.



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