The “winter of discontent” for Britain’s manufacturers extended into March as the economy struggles to avoid a triple-dip recession, a new industry survey warned today.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply’s activity index — where a 50 score signals no change — edged up from February’s four-month low of 47.9 to 48.3 in March, leaving firms mired in contraction territory.
The survey, along with disappointing mortgage lending data from the Bank of England, damped the mood after more optimistic British Chamber of Commerce forecasts that a resilient services sector would prevent the UK slipping back into a technical recession.
Markit’s senior economist Rob Dobson said it was “still touch and go” over whether the UK would manage growth in the current quarter. CIPS chief executive David Noble added: “Manufacturers’ winter of discontent extended into March, with continued weak demand at home and abroad, increased costs, and constraints on investment all conspiring against the sector, leading to the eighth consecutive month of job losses.
“As a result, activity in manufacturing has fallen at the fastest pace since October and the absence of new orders brings little hope of an uplift in Spring.”
New export orders shrank for the fifteenth month in a row amid weak demand from Europe and strong competition in the US and South Asia markets, despite a steep fall in the pound since the beginning of the year, CIPS added.
Separate figures from the Bank of England showed mortgage approvals for house purchases falling 5 per cent to 51,653 as its Funding for Lending scheme failed to boost loan volumes. February’s figure was barely above the 51,092 average seen throughout 2012.