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Bank of England Agents Summary of Business Conditions, November 2012:  The latest summary of business conditions from the local agents for the Bank of England suggests that the manufacturing sector is becoming more affected by weakening international trade prospects. 

The oil and gas sector, together with aerospace continue to be buoyant, but other sectors are seeing weaker demand both at home and for export.  The prospects for business investment remain very modest; they report that manufacturers who needed extra capacity or who were pursuing efficiency gains are spending, but for others, uncertain prospects for demand are holding back investment.  Capacity utilisation remained a little below “normal”, with only isolated reports of constraints.  You can view the Agents report at

UK Machine Tool Exports/Imports, 3rd quarter 2012:  UK Machine Tool exports were worth £131.5 million, an increase of +11.5% compared to the 2nd period of the year and 8.6% above the level seen a year ago; on the same basis, UK imports of machine tools were valued at 4143.0 million, a fall of -23.2% on the previous quarter, but +8.4% higher than in the same period of 2011.

For the first nine months of the year, exports are +14.9% higher than in the equivalent period last year (January to September 2011), while imports have grown by +40.5%.  Deliveries to the European Union are +17% higher and account for almost 46% of the total, while exports to the rest of the world have grown by +13%;  China is the leading export market at £58.4 million, or almost one-sixth of all exports, an increase of over +30% on last year.  For imports, Europe is again slightly stronger, with arrivals from the EU growing by +46%, while imports from the rest of the world increased by +35%.

If you are interested in more details of the UK’s trade in machine tools, perhaps by country or product, please contact Geoff Noon at MTA.

UK Research & Development (R&D), 2011:  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released a detailed analysis of R&D spending in the UK for 2011.  Total R&D spending was worth £17.4 billion, or 1.1% of GDP; in cash terms this is an increase of +8%, but the share of the economy is unchanged from the 2010 level.

By industry sector, the largest spending on R&D is for pharmaceuticals which accounts for over ¼ of the total; this is followed by computer programming and information services (10.4% of the total), motor vehicles (8.8%) and aerospace (8.1%).  The report also notes that, for the first time, the ownership of businesses that perform R&D in the UK is split equally between foreign and UK companies.

More details can be found in the ONS Statistical Bulletin which can be downloaded from their website at or requested from the MTA

Annual Business Survey, 2011 results:  The ONS has also released the preliminary results from the 2011 Business Survey; this gives structural data about the various sectors of the UK economy, including information such as number of companies, employment, capital expenditure and stocks.  It shows a total of 122,598 manufacturing companies, of which 54,335 are in the Engineering sector; these companies employed an average of 2.509 million people during the year, or which 1.077 million were in engineering.  More details are in the ONS Statistical Bulletin and the associated data tables which can be downloaded from their website at or requested from MTA.