Drug firms boost manufacturing

A SURGE in the pharmaceuticals sector over the summer helped the beleaguered manufacturing sector climb out of recession, according to figures published yesterday.

Production at the UK factories of the big drugs firms rose 5.4 per cent in the three months to July. The growth contributed to a rise of 0.3 per cent in overall manufacturing output. This was in line with forecasts and a recovery from a 0.2 per cent fall in June. A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics said: "Pharmaceuticals have been strong for the last few months. There are some new products that have been doing well."

The ONS is unable to release details of individual companies, but it is understood the surge was driven by strong performances by five pharma companies, including Pfizer, which makes Viagra. However, as the male impotence drug is manufactured in Ireland and France, its success would not have affected the data.

The figures are unlikely to influence the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which is expected to leave rates unchanged at 5 per cent when it announces the outcome of its monthly meeting at noon today.

Separate figures from the Confederation of British Industry showed high street sales jumped in August at the fastest rate for 18 months, while prices rose at their slowest rate since November 1994.