The latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) produced a headline reading of 49.5 for August, representing a four-month high and only slightly below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction.
The survey contrasts with the findings of the EEF manufacturing organisation, which today said firms were facing the toughest conditions in nearly three years as the sector struggles against headwinds from the eurozone.
CIPS chief executive David Noble said a repeat of the previous month’s performance would have been unthinkable: “We can take consolation from August’s figures in that they were less bad than the disastrous month before. We have witnessed a return to the status quo of flat growth in a fragile economy.”
It is believed the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations may have paid their part.
ING economist James Knightley said there may have been a delayed effect which has influenced the latest figures.
He added: “The report is consistent with stagnation in the UK’s manufacturing sector rather than the deepening recession hinted at by official data.”