Survey points to 'modest' manufacturing recovery in South West
MANUFACTURING is set for a "modest" recovery in 2013, a survey of South West factories says.
The latest regional Business Trends Survey by EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, says firms, including those in Plymouth, are more optimistic about their prospects after a rocky 2012.
The quarterly survey, revealed to companies and the press at a conference at Sandy Park in Exeter, highlights " a major turn around in expectations" among manufacturers, with more positivity about the next three months.
It also revealed companies' margins had improved "considerably" and that recruitment had recovered, albeit "modestly" and with a question mark against the productivity of workforces.
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Investment plans also continue to defy demand, the survey said, but it was stressed this focused on "plans" and actual investment remained "inconsistent".
Yet this more positive picture was achieved despite a further weakening in output and orders, now seen as "generally negative".
Export orders also remain negative, and there was further divergence between sectors with aerospace, and marine and defence industries, with strong presence in Plymouth, doing much better than motor vehicles, for example.
There was also found to be little movement on price balances in the past three months.
However, the survey points to a potential upswing in fortunes for the rest of this year and Phil Brownsord, South West director of EEF, said: "Manufacturing did not have a wonderful year in 2012 but it looks less weak now.
"It's not a massive growth but a significant turnaround."
He said the outlook was likely to be brightened by this year not featuring distractions caused by additional bank holidays or Olympic games.
Firms are also expected to be helped by domestic customers possibly looking to spend again, and increased demand from a post-election USA and from the Far East.
"China is growing significantly and the USA should settle down," Mr Brownsord said. "The export market should pick up."
He said there was still uncertainty surrounding the eurozone, particularly after the inconclusive result of last week's Italian election. But the survey predicted a better 2013 and "stronger growth in 2014".