Manufacturing orders fell across the UK during the last quarter of 1998, according to the latest CBI/Business Strategies Regional Trends survey.
Firms in the North of England were hardest hit, followed by the West Midlands and the North-west. Northern Ireland, with the least negative balance of orders, is the only region where more firms were optimistic than pessimistic.
The CBI says that in all regions, manufacturers are responding to the general fall in output by cutting their production and workforces. The West Midlands had the largest balance of firms cutting output, with Northern Ireland again the lowest.
UK companies spent a record £53.1bn on overseas acquisitions in 1998, thanks largely to the £32.6bn takeover of Amoco by BP. The number of acquisitions fell to 426 in 1998 from 464 in 1997. Overseas takeovers of UK companies rose slightly in number, from 193 to 214, while their value doubled.
Turnover in the machine tools industry fell in the last quarter of 1998 to an unadjusted total of £602.5m a 4.7% fall in home turnover more than offsetting a slight rise in exports.
Orders on hand fell by 12.5% compared with the previous quarter and by 32.6% on December 1997.