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ECONOMIC NEWS

CBI Industrial Trends Survey, November 2021:  The latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey (ITS) results show the balance for total order books at the strongest ever level (this question has been running since April 1977) and export order books also improved although in this case it was only the strongest since March 2019.  The data collection period was from 26th October to 12th November so the trends really refer to October rather than the publishing month of November.

Output is also strong with the volume of output over the past 3 months running at an above average pace and the expectations for the coming three months pointing to an acceleration.  Over the past 3 months, output increased in 12 of the 17 sub-sectors covered in the ITS;  the strongest growth was in the food & drink, electronic engineering and chemicals sub-sectors.

The adequacy of stocks of finished goods fell again from what was already the lowest on record level the previous month.  In the face of this, respondents anticipate that output price growth will be at its strongest since May 1977.

You can get the Press Release of the CBI ITS from their web-site at www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre (24 November) or request a summary of the results from MTA.

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Flash Purchasing Managers Index, November 2021:  The flash estimates from the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) show small movements in either direction with some common themes underlying the mixed trends.  For the UK, the overall manufacturing PMI was a little higher than in October and there was a significant improvement in the output element although it remains below the overall level.  This suggests an easing of the supply chain issues although the survey reports that they are still very significant with “severe shortages” of both labour and materials holding back growth and, perversely, adding to the PMI reading.

The report also notes that output, new orders and employment in the manufacturing sector were at their highest since August, although export orders decreased slightly with respondents noting that long lead times and Brexit trade frictions are limiting sales to the EU.  Despite the increase in output, the strength of new orders means that backlogs increased to the greatest extent for 5 months in the UK.

The Euro-zone also saw its manufacturing PMI increase although here the rise in the output element was more modest and it remains relatively weak compared to the rest of this year.  New orders remained strong but output was held back by the automotive industry - the worst affected by the shortage of electronic components - which nearly balanced robust expansions in output of tech equipment, food & drink and household goods.

At this stage in the cycle, we only have detailed reports for France and Germany.  The pattern for France mirrored that for the Euro-zone with modest improvements in both the overall PMI reading and for the output element;  however, output remained in negative territory.  IHS Markit who compile the PMI reports noted that price pressures were particularly acute for French manufacturers, although there was a small increase in new orders which led to a further lengthening of backlogs.

In Germany, the overall PMI edged down to a 10-month low, although at 57.6, it still implies an expansion of activity despite the distortions from lengthening suppliers delivery times.  This view is supported by the fact that the output element improved to 51.7 despite the impact on the automotive industry.  Manufacturing orders although among the weakest levels of the recovery, did improve to “a solid rate”.

In the USA, both the overall manufacturing PMI and the output element moved up compared to October and although still positive, the latter remains relatively muted thanks to the shortages of materials and labour seen in most countries.  With new orders improving faster than output, order backlogs were also extended again.  Output expectations for the year ahead strengthened in anticipation of more stability in both labour markets and across supply chains.

In Japan, the overall manufacturing PMI increased to 54.2 - this is its highest reading since January 2018 and was led by a significant increase in the output element of the calculation.  New orders also accelerated in November but the respondents continue to report price pressures in the face of ongoing supply shortages.

These reports are available on the IHS Markit web-site at https://www.markiteconomics.com/Public/Release/PressReleases?language=en or on request from MTA.

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UK Business Spending on R&D, 2020:  Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that expenditure on Research & Development (R&D) by UK businesses increased by +3.5% compared to the 2019 level to reach £26.9 billion.  With GDP falling in 2020 with the impact of the Covid pandemic, R&D spending accounted for a new record high of 1.3% of the UK economy.

By industry, both the largest total value and the largest percentage increase was in pharmaceuticals with growth of +18.6% to a total of just over £5 billion.  The only other one to see double-digit growth was the automotive industry where spending grew by +10.8% to £2.9 billion - this is also the 2nd highest industry value total.  Other high spending industries relevant to MTA and EIA members included software development at £2.0 billion (+7.5% up on 2019), aerospace at £1.7 billion (+6.1%) and machinery & equipment at £1.0 billion (+3.8%), with the metal products industry at a more modest £0.3 billion (+1.1%).

All of the English regions except the North East and Scotland had R&D expenditure of more than £1 billion, with the largest spend by area in the East of England and South East regions.  These two regions also had the largest percentage increases compared to 2019.  The regional pattern of R&D expenditure is driven by the regional distribution of the high spending industries.

You can get the ONS Statistical Bulletin and the separate data tables from their web-site at https://www.ons.gov.uk/releasecalendar (19 November) or request them from MTA.