U.K. Factories Sustain Growth After Entering `Softer' PhaseBy
March PMI reading was better than economists forecast
Average first-quarter index was weakest in a year, Markit says
U.K. manufacturing maintained its pace of expansion in March, though there was a sharp slowdown in new orders.
IHS Markit said its monthly Purchasing Managers Index was at 55.1, up from 55 in February and better than economists had forecast. The figure is also encouraging given the disruption from the “Beast from the East” storm during the month.
The report had positive and negative elements, with output and employment up, and companies reporting a “strongly positive outlook.” But new orders rose the least since June and backlogs of work fell for a third straight month.
IHS Markit said the average PMI reading in the first quarter was the weakest in a year and is consistent with manufacturing growth of about 0.5 percent. That compares with a 1.3 percent surge in the final three months of 2017.
“Manufacturing has entered a softer growth phase,” said Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit. “They key question is whether growth can now be sustained, albeit at a lower level, in the coming months. On that front the news is generally positive.”
— With assistance by Mark Evans, and Harumi Ichikura