EEF's Business Trends Survey - the key points

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Despite experiencing significant disruptions in the last three months manufacturers remained positive in this quarter's Business Trends survey.

Output and orders were in line with last quarter's expectations, and export demand remains key to growth …

Manufacturers are shaking off the effects of temporary factors with balances of 27% and 23% respectively reporting increased output and orders in the last three months. In line with the previous three surveys the gap between export and domestic orders is still evident.

… investment and recruitment are still underway…

The overall picture on employment and investment remains positive. A balance of 18% of companies plan to increase their capital investment plans in the coming year and a balance of +20% of companies recruited for new employees in the past quarter.

… but the outlook for orders has become more mixed …

Responses from different manufacturing sectors have become more varied. Although still positive, results from companies in the metals and electronics sectors are reporting considerably weaker orders balances than in the last quarter. In contrast motor vehicles and mechanical equipment have been buoyed by solid overseas orders.

… and pressure on margins has increased …

Our survey showed that while the cost of some raw materials has fallen from the high levels seen in the first half of the year, more companies are seeing a squeeze on margins.

… nonetheless expectations for growth in the remainder of 2011 are positive

Despite an uncertain outlook our survey shows some continued optimism that output and orders are set to hold up in the short term. Although our forecasts for growth in 2011 have been revised down – in part to reflect weaker outturns in the fist half of the year – manufacturing should grow by 2.8% this year and 2.2% in 2012.

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