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Smaller firms' exports suffer

Export orders for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) fell at their fastest rate since October 1992 over the last four months because of the strong pound.

According to the latest SME report by the Confederation of British Industry and the accountants Pannell Kerr Forster published today, there was a negative balance of 8 per cent of SMEs reporting a fall in export demand, despite positive prior expectations.

In contrast, SMEs matched the rest of the UK's manufacturing industry in attracting new orders and improving output over the past four months.

The survey also finds that the trend in SME domestic prices and investment intentions is below that of UK manufacturers as a whole, but their employment performance has been better.

Over the past four months total orders received by SMEs have continued to grow moderately, with a further pick-up expected. A positive balance of 6 per cent of SMEs reported an increase in domestic orders - a slower increase than in the four months to January.

Manufacturing output for SMEs increased at a similar rate to January's survey, with a positive balance of 10 per cent of firms reporting a rise over the past four months. Over the next four months, output is expected to pick up further, although expectations have not been fully realised since April 1995.

Domestic prices for SMEs fell for the fourth successive quarterly survey.