Manufacturers' confidence plummets

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The Independent Online

Confidence in the manufacturing sector has fallen in every region of the UK for the first time in a year as companies continue to face weak demand for exports, according to a new survey.

Confidence in the manufacturing sector has fallen in every region of the UK for the first time in a year as companies continue to face weak demand for exports, according to a new survey.

Manufacturers in all regions except Northern Ireland plan to cut staff in the first four months of 2003, with industry analysts predicting around 42,000 job losses by the end of April.

The latest quarterly regional trends survey, published by the CBI and Experian Business Strategies, showed job cuts were expected to be highest in the West Midlands, followed closely by the South-east and London, the North-west and Wales. The sharpest falls in business confidence were recorded in the East of England, the Midlands, the North-west and Scotland.

With profit margins under pressure, firms in all 11 regions said they had no intention of increasing investment in plant and machinery.

The survey also showed Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest percentage of firms working below capacity, while Northern Ireland had the lowest.

Despite the gloom, seven regions expected output to pick up eventually, with the North-east emerging as the most optimistic region.

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