Manufacturing activity falls further – EY ITEM Club comments

  • The manufacturing downturn deepened in July, with the sector’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) heading further into contractionary territory. And with the impact of higher interest rates on household and corporate budgets growing, the EY ITEM Club doesn’t expect a significant uptick in manufacturing activity this year.
  • The S&P Global/CIPS survey also pointed to another fall in input cost inflation in the goods sector, adding to other leading indicators showing growing evidence of disinflation. But given the Bank of England’s focus on inflation in the services sector, this probably won’t have much bearing on its next interest rate decision later this week.

Martin Beck, Chief Economic Advisor to the EY ITEM Club, says: “July’s final S&P Global/CIPS manufacturing survey reported another decline in activity, with the PMI falling to 45.3 from 46.5 in June. The index was dragged down by a significant decline in production, with survey respondents suggesting that mounting uncertainty from rising interest rates had led to a softening in demand both at home and from abroad.

“But the fall in the PMI balance looks to have been exaggerated by some overstocked firms choosing to cut purchases amid improving supply chains, leading to a further fall in supplier delivery times. The PMI is also prone to being affected by sentiment, so the weight of recent bad news about rising mortgage rates may have depressed the outlook of survey respondents and dragged on the PMI.

“Beyond the survey’s disappointing set of backward-looking balances, its forward-looking indicators didn’t offer much positivity either. Respondents reported a large fall in new business, suggesting that manufacturing output is likely to remain weak in the near-term. Goods producers are likely to struggle over the rest of this year as rising borrowing costs and still-high inflation continue to squeeze household and corporate budgets.

“One area where the survey did offer some brighter news was on costs. Input cost inflation fell outright for the third consecutive month as pressures on transport and energy prices eased. But manufacturers appear to be attempting to rebuild margins rather than pass lower costs onto consumers, with factory gate charges remaining flat. Falling cost pressures should be welcomed by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), but the committee is unlikely to place much weight on the results of today’s survey. Instead, the MPC’s attention is likely to be focused on the much bigger services sector, where inflation has come down recently, but remains uncomfortably high. Therefore, the EY ITEM Club still expects the MPC to raise Bank Rate by 25bps later this week.”

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