Export orders pick up in June

The Confederation of British Industry yesterday undermined its own argument for lower interest rates by announcing that export orders have recovered slightly this month.

The employers' organisation has argued that higher base rates will further strengthen the pound, thereby making British manufactured goods less competitive in export markets.

But the CBI's latest monthly trends survey shows exports picked up in June with a smaller balance of firms reporting a decline in exports than in previous months. Interest rates have gone up twice since Labour came to power.

According to the survey, the balance of companies reporting export order books below normal was 20 per cent in June compared with 24 per cent in May and 23 per cent in April.

During the period the survey was conducted, 22 May to 11 June, sterling averaged $1.635 and DM2.796.

The CBI's director of economic analysis, Sudhir Junankar, said: "Despite the small revival in export orders this month, sterling's strength continues to have a dampening effect on export demand and manufacturers' output growth expectations have weakened for the third successive survey."

The figures will deal a blow to the CBI's campaign for higher taxes, rather than higher interest rates, to keep the lid on inflation. The organisation has called for a pounds 2bn increase in personal taxes in next month's budget to curb inflation.

The balance of firms reporting total order books below normal has fallen from 8 per cent in May to 3 per cent this month. The survey also shows that price expectations are the lowest for nearly a year.

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