British makers report near-record January weakness

LONDON: British manufacturers reported some of the weakest conditions ever in January when they cut jobs at a record pace, monthly purchasing managers index data showed on Monday.

The headline number rose to 35.8 in January from December’s 34.9 – slightly better than the return to November’s record low of 34.5 forecast by economists but still the third-weakest reading in the series’s 17-year history.

“The latest PMI figures highlight the appalling market conditions that British manufacturers are currently facing,” said Rob Dobson, an economist for pollsters Markit, who conduct the survey for the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

“Although the PMI output index rose for the second month running, it was still consistent with production contracting by around 6% year-on-year,” he added.

Weaker global demand outweighed any benefit from sterling’s fall against major currencies, and domestic conditions were especially poor due to the crisis affecting car making, construction and retail.

“The principal factors underlying the weak performance of British manufacturing remained the downshift in global aggregate demand and frozen credit markets,” the survey said. The employment element of the index hit a fresh record low, falling to 33.5 from 33.9 as firms cut capacity and costs to match thinner order books. – Reuters

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