UK Manufacturing Output Bounces Back, But Caution Noted

After three consecutive months of falling production, UK manufacturing bounced back in March, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The main impetus came from a recovery in the engineering sector, which had suffered a dismal start to the year. Production grew 0.4% on the month and 1.6% on the year, compared with a fall of 0.1% on the month and a rise of 1.6% on the year in February. Economists had expected a rise of around 0.2% on the month. Output in the whole of the first quarter fell 0.5%, the sharpest quarterly drop for more than a year. Despite the encouraging upturn in manufacturing fortunes in the latest month, the ONS and others are being cautious in their assessments. "I don't think it's anything to start jumping up and down about for the simple reason that it's come off the back of three months of dire figures," says Neil Parker, economist at Royal Bank of Scotland. "Also, the big question is whether there is actually demand for the output produced. If there's not, this will just add to stocks, and output will have to be scaled back later in the year."

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