Manufacturing index hits eight-month high in March


The purchasing managers' index for UK manufacturing, compiled by data company Markit, hit an eight-month high in March, climbing to 54.4 from 54 in February. While the main reading was in line with expectations, new orders surged from 56.4 to 57.9. Lee Hopley, chief economist at the EEF, said: 'The PMI suggests that, if anything, the sector has stepped up a gear at the start of this year.' Manufacturing employment climbed for the 23rd consecutive month in March according to the survey, hitting a record high of 73%. There are also signs that wages may have started to pick up after a long phase of stagnation. The domestic recovery was largely driven by a surge in the consumer sector, which is expected to continue in the coming month. Retail sales were especially strong in February as consumers made the most of the slump in inflation, but capital goods producers also had strong performances. Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said: 'The outlook for manufacturers seems pretty healthy on the domestic demand front, especially for consumer goods.'


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