Growth in the UK manufacturing sector has slumped to the lowest level in almost three years.
The Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 50.8 in February, down on 52.9 in January, and only just above the no-change position of 50.
The reading, the lowest since April 2013, came against a backdrop of sharp decelerations in the consumer and investment goods sectors.
Companies reported subdued trends in domestic and foreign demand, while the intermediate goods sector saw new order volumes tick higher. Firms said they experienced weaker order inflows from Brazil, mainland Europe, Russia and the US.
Employment fell for the second successive month, with job cuts registered in consumer and investment goods categories, while there was a negligible increase in headcounts among intermediate goods producers.
Both input costs and output charges fell in February, with companies reporting lower costs for commodities and competition between suppliers driving down input prices.
David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “Manufacturers reduced their input stocks for the fourth month in a row in anticipation of a slowing growth rate and poor demand. Despite a cut in purchasing, suppliers’ delivery times lengthened for the 33rd month running.”
Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, said: “The near-stagnation of manufacturing highlights the ongoing fragility of the economic recovery at the start of the year and provides further cover for the Bank of England’s increasingly dovish stance.”