Clarity over Brexit 'would help boost slack factory output in Northern Ireland'
A boost of confidence around Brexit is needed to help Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector, according to an industry leader as UK figures reveal an eight-month low in activity.
The closely watched Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed a reading of 55.2 last month, down from January's 55.3. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
Despite new orders picking up pace over the period, companies saw production growth eke out its slowest expansion for nearly a year.
The sluggish performance marks a stark contrast to the final months of 2017 when manufacturers ended the year on a strong footing, with output climbing to a four-year high in November.
Manufacturing NI boss Stephen Kelly said the sector needs a clearer picture of what will happened post-Brexit, in order to inspire confidence in manufacturers.
"We've certainly witnessed a slowing of the economy in recent months as inflation takes hold and with household spending under pressure," he said.
"What we need now is a boost to confidence. The best available would be an early settlement to this latest round of Brexit negotiations with confirmation of a transition period and a move on to securing what the future will look like post-2019."
Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said: "The PMI's Output Index fell to its second-lowest level since the EU referendum and, based on its past relationship with official ONS data, is consistent with only a subdued 0.4% quarterly pace of growth in production volumes."