UK manufacturing trade body cuts outlook for 2023

By Suban Abdulla

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s main manufacturing trade body on Monday cut its forecast for the sector’s growth for this year and next, citing a sharp fall in factory output and economic uncertainty.

Trade body Make UK expects output to fall 0.5% in 2023, down from its June forecast for a 0.3% drop, and grow just 0.5% in 2024.

“Manufacturers are seeing a very sharp slowdown in activity as the potent cocktail of rising interest rates, cost of living and slowing overseas markets bites hard,” Verity Davidge, policy director at Make UK said.

The sluggish factory outlook was in line with the wider picture for Britain’s economy, which has so far this year avoided a recession and which Make UK expects will grow 0.5% this year and 0.4% in 2024.

Official figures last week showed the country’s economy shrank by a sharper-than-expected 0.5% in July after public sector strikes and unusually rainy weather weighed on output.

The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates for the 15th time in a row on Thursday, while consumer price inflation data due on Wednesday is likely to show a rise to 7.1% in August from July’s 6.8%, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

“There’s an argument here that says the Bank of England’s plan to raise interest rates and stamp out inflation is working,” Richard Austin, national head of manufacturing at BDO, which sponsors the survey, said.

“But it is the scale of the fall in the indicators this quarter that comes as a surprise and highlights the extent of the slowdown on UK manufacturing.”

Make UK’s quarterly survey said the balance for manufacturing output was the weakest performance for production since the last quarter in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturers reported the steepest fall in hiring plans since the EU referendum in 2016, and the lowest order growth since Q4 in 2020.

(Reporting by Suban Abdulla, editing by Andy Bruce)