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UK factory orders fall at fastest rate for seven years

The manufacturing sector remained in decline in July, marking the third consecutive month in negative territory.

Setter Operator at work at manufacturing company Sertec, Coleshill in Birmingham. Sertec manufactures components for Jaguar and Land Rover. UK manufacturing orders saw their sharpest fall in seven years in July (PA)
Setter Operator at work at manufacturing company Sertec, Coleshill in Birmingham. Sertec manufactures components for Jaguar and Land Rover. UK manufacturing orders saw their sharpest fall in seven years in July (PA)

Britain’s manufacturing sector remained in decline in July after the sharpest deterioration in factory orders for seven years.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) stayed flat at a reading of 48 in July, the same as in June.

A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Performance remained at its weakest level since February 2013 and it was the third consecutive month in negative territory.

The headline manufacturing figures – one of the earliest indicators of the strength of an economy – surpassed analyst expectations, with last month’s performance predicted to dip to 47.7 points.

However, IHS Markit said new orders fell as firms used up stockpiled materials, EU-based businesses moved supply chains out of the UK and weakness in the global economy hit demand.

UK manufacturing production saw its largest fall since 2012 after new orders fell due to weaker demand from domestic and overseas markets.

New export business also declined, reflecting lower intakes from the EU and China, the survey said.

The downturn also hindered recruitment, as employment in the sector fell for the fourth month in a row.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said: “July saw the UK manufacturing sector suffocating under the choke-hold of slower global economic growth, political uncertainty and the unwinding of earlier Brexit stockpiling activity.

“The weak, highly competitive environment makes a sustained revival highly unlikely in the coming months.

“However, a short-lived bounce leading up to October should not be ruled out, as some manufacturers are already gearing up to restart Brexit preparations.”

Despite the fall in new business, manufacturers became more optimistic as 46% said they expect output to be higher in a year’s time, an improvement on June.

The figures came shortly after the eurozone manufacturing sector revealed that last month saw the sharpest decline in performance since 2012.

Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: “A killer combination of economic uncertainty and the weakest production levels for seven years battered the manufacturing sector into contraction for the third consecutive month in July.

“Unsurprisingly the decline in employment levels followed suit with one of the sharpest cuts to jobs for more than six years as businesses hesitated to keep calm and carry on and build staff levels.

“However, optimism for the future stayed relatively buoyant in the hope that certainty will once again return to UK shores soon and in spite of the increase in no-deal Brexit rhetoric.”

Seamus Nevin, chief economist at manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said: “Today’s numbers prove that the UK economy is undeniably on a downward trajectory with output, new orders and employment all falling again.

“Companies are cutting back on both day-to-day spending and capital investment as the downturn in activity continues, reflecting growing fears of a crash-out Brexit and worrying global trade conditions.”

PA

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