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UK factory PMI rises to eight-month high in March: Markit

[LONDON] Britain's manufacturing sector grew at the fastest rate in eight months in March, bolstered by strong domestic demand and a pick-up in export orders, a survey showed on Wednesday.

Financial data company Markit said its monthly manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 54.4 in March from 54.0 the month before, the highest level since July 2014 and just ahead of economists' consensus forecast for a rise to 54.3.

Markit said the figures suggested that output in Britain's manufacturing sector grew by 0.6 per cent in the first three months of 2015 compared with the previous quarter, up strongly from 0.2 per cent in the last three months of last year.

This could help offset weakness in the dominant services sector, which shrank by 0.2 per cent on the month in January and threatens to drag down first-quarter gross domestic product figures due out the week before May 7's national election.

Growth in March remained heavily reliant on British consumer demand. This has proven buoyant as a big fall in inflation and modest wage rises have boosted households' disposable income, taking one sentiment indicator to a 12-year high.

But Markit said there were signs that investment demand and export orders were starting to pick up, both of which are needed to put economic growth on a more solid footing.

"The drivers of growth are heavily skewed towards domestic consumers," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit.

"However ... business-to-business and investment spending are providing some support and balance to the economy."

New export orders grew at the fastest rate since August after contracting in February, while input prices continued to fall rapidly, reflecting the steep decline in oil prices since last year, Markit said.


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