Manufacturing order books stay near 30-year high

The UK manufacturing industry has kept order book levels near a 30-year high thanks to strong demand for motor vehicles and transport equipment.

Total order books in the three months to December were in line with the month before when it hit the highest rate since August 1988, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) industrial trends survey.

While 14 of the 17 areas of manufacturing enjoyed "above normal" order book rates, export orders eased back slightly from the 20-year highs seen in the three months to November.

Anna Leach, the CBI's head of economic intelligence, said: "As we head towards the end of 2017, UK manufacturers' total order books remain at a near-30 (year) high, with export order books remaining at their strongest since the mid-1990s.

"While the lower level of sterling continues to support exporters, cost pressures remain intense.

"Businesses will expect to see the Government's Industrial Strategy make rapid progress next year to support manufacturing and the wider economy in every corner of the UK."

The survey, which includes the views of 371 manufacturers, said total order books had a balance of plus 17%, with 28% of firms reporting above normal levels.

While firms predict output growth to decelerate over the next quarter, their expectations still had a positive balance of 13%, as 26% believe volumes to rise.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: "The recent progress in Brexit talks might give manufacturers confidence to undertake investment projects that they have delayed over the last 18 months.

"But investment won't boost capacity quickly enough to make a swift difference.

"The risk, then, is that the UK economy fails to capitalise fully on the recovery in global trade and remains the G7's laggard next year."

The update follows official figures earlier this month showing the manufacturing output kept growing at the start of the fourth quarter, expanding by 0.1% in October as industrial production came in flat.