Manufacturing figures point to improvement

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BRITAIN’S manufacturers have received a “glimmer of hope” after new figures suggested the sector downturn could be nearing an end.

Output and new orders picked up for the first time since January, according to the latest Markit/Cips purchasing managers’ index.

The headline reading of 49.8 for April was just below the 50 level that separates growth from contraction, up from a low of 47.9 in February and 48.3 in March.

It is the latest encouraging sign for the UK economy after figures last week showed the country avoided a triple-dip recession with growth of 0.3 per cent in the first quarter.

Levels of production and new orders rose slightly in April after contracting in the prior two months, with output growing in some areas and the rate of contraction easing back in others.

Samuel Tombs, an economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said there was “a glimmer of hope that the sector’s recession might be coming to an end”, although he cautioned that the improvement came from very weak levels.

Export orders rose, boosted by increased sales to Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and North America, but demand from the eurozone remained “lacklustre”.

Manufacturing job losses were recorded for the third straight month in April but the overall rate was less than in the previous two, according to the data.

Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compiler Markit, said: “Manufacturers report that the domestic market is just about holding its head above water.”