Manufacturing shines amid economic gloom
Published:  17 June, 2008

Britain's manufacturers are continuing to defy the pervading economic gloom by posting their tenth consecutive quarter of healthy growth in the second quarter of 2008 according to a major survey published by EEF, the manufacturers" organisation and Grant Thornton.

Despite reports of weakening economic growth in the UK, firms reported a rise in domestic orders. Export orders have also remained relatively strong although there are indications of a softening, possibly due to weakening conditions in the United States .

The survey did however add to the Bank of Englandís concerns about inflation with firms having increased prices and more expecting to do so. In contrast, it also suggests that manufacturers have not been able to pass on all of the cost rises they have suffered and that profit margins have been squeezed. In addition, higher inflation is not currently feeding into higher wage settlements, with companies bearing down on wage costs to offset increases in other costs.

Commenting, EEF chief economist, Steve Radley, said: "Manufacturers are providing a beacon of light amidst the current economic gloom and remain cautiously optimistic about their immediate prospects. Companies are responding to the squeeze on their margins from rising costs by continuing to invest in their businesses to drive up productivity. However, at a time of heightened uncertainty, the government needs to send a clear message that it will ensure that the UK remains an attractive place to do business."

Given the relatively upbeat survey results and the resilience shown by the sector in the first half of the year, EEF has revised up its forecasts for 2008. Manufacturing is forecast to grow by 0.9% and engineering by 1.3% this year, with a slight improvement in manufacturing next year to 1.0%. Engineering is expected to remain at 1.3% in 2009.

Bob Hale, Head of Manufacturing at Grant Thornton, commented: "These figures show most manufacturers have made hay while the sun was shining, and are proving much more resilient to the credit crunch than many analysts had predicted. The pain of raw material price inflation and tighter refinancing is balanced by the gain of a weaker Pound for exporters and the growing demand for the quality output that UK manufacturers have gained a reputation for producing."

 




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