UK manufacturers end first quarter with faster growth

31 March 2004
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01 April 2004 | Gareth Mytton

The UK manufacturing sector ended the first quarter of 2004 with accelerating growth, according to the latest PMI figures.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) - a composite indicator of economic activity from CIPS and NTC Research, where 50 means no change on the previous month - rose to 53.7, up from 53 in February.

Supply bottlenecks muted growth for intermediate goods producers and, more widely, fed into longer delivery times for suppliers (43.6) and higher input prices (63.9). Steel, plastics and paper were mentioned as rising in price, but companies increased their purchasing activity to guard against more price rises.

For the same reason, clients placed more orders, which also led to higher output but employment fell slightly. However, 14 per cent of companies managed to pass some price rises onto customers.

Growth in the euro-zone was only marginally below the UK's, according to NTC Research. Its PMI for March was 53.3, a rise of 0.8 on February. The fastest-growing output came in Austria, followed by Greece and Germany.

The US enjoyed its tenth straight month of growth in March, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported in its Manufacturing Report on Business. In the PMI of 62.5, all 20 responding sectors of the economy said activity was higher than in the previous month.

Among the issues for purchasing and supply managers in the US were rising energy and material costs, and the continuing weakenss of the dollar.

* More information on the UK and euro-zone PMIs is available at www.ntc-research.com. The full text of the ISM reports on the US economy for March, and previous reports, is available at http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/index.cfm.

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