Figures offer hope to manufacturing sector

UK manufacturing completed a miserable year of decline in February but there are signs the sector's rapid pace of contraction is easing, official figures have shown.

Output fell 0.9 per cent between January and February - its 12th successive month of decline and the worst run since 1980, according to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This leaves output 13.8 per cent lower than a year ago, but the 0.9 per cent fall is the sector's lowest rate of decline for six months, fuelling hopes that the deep recession among manufacturers has bottomed out.

The ONS figures follow better-than-expected survey results from UK purchasing managers in the sector last week.

Manufacturing has seen sharp falls in production in recent months as firms eat into their stockpiles, but experts said the figures showed this trend was easing.

"February's figures tentatively suggest that the drag on output from manufacturers running down their inventories might be easing. However, the sector's still in pretty bad shape," said Vicky Redwood, of Capital Economics.

In the three months to February,UK manufacturing output was 6.5 per cent lower than the previous quarter, with car makers the worst hit as the industry's woes continued.

According to the ONS, car manufacturing in the three months to February was 44.9 per cent lower than the same period a year earlier.

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