UK industrial orders index rebounds in February - CBI

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - British manufacturers reported the smallest hit to their order books this month since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and see output stabilising after a sharp drop in January, the Confederation of British Industry said on Friday.

The CBI’s monthly industrial orders balance jumped to -24 in February from -38 in January, its highest reading since February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, though still below its long-run average of -14.

“Manufacturing activity remains patchy, but so far appears to have taken a smaller hit than in previous lockdowns,” CBI economist Alpesh Paleja said.

Output expectations for the next three months rose to -2 from January’s reading of -24.

Britain entered its third coronavirus lockdown in January, which closed most businesses to the public. Employees can still go to their workplace if working from home is not practical.

The majority of manufacturing sub-sectors reported growth but the index was dragged down by sharp declines for vehicle manufacturers and food and drink companies.

Food and drink exports have been some of the hardest hit by new customs rules for trade with the European Union which took effect on Jan. 1.

The survey was based on responses from 296 manufacturers between Jan. 27 and Feb. 12. (Reporting by David Milliken Editing by William Schomberg)