UK manufacturers have reported an increase in their total order books for the third month running but remain cautious in their expectations for output at the start of the new year, according to the CBI.
Of the 392 manufacturers responding to the Industrial Trends Survey, 18 per cent reported that total order books were above normal and 30 per cent said they were below. The resulting balance of -12 per cent is nine points higher than in November (-21 per cent) and a little higher than the long-run average (-17 per cent) for the first time since September (-8 per cent).
The balance of manufacturers reporting that export orders were above normal was -11 per cent — also above the long-run average (-21 per cent). This meant that last month’s rebound held (-12 per cent) but that there was no further improvement in export order books.
Looking ahead, manufacturers expect output to be flat for the next three months (zero per cent) — an improvement on last month (-9 per cent) but still below the robust growth that was anticipated in October (12 per cent).
The investment-goods sectors — particularly mechanical engineering and aerospace — are the main drivers of growth, but half of the 12 main manufacturing sub-sectors expect output to fall, including chemicals and electrical engineering.