UK Investment, 3rd Quarter 2022:  Among the package of data published last Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) were the figures for investment spending in the 3rd quarter.  At this stage, we only have the high level data, with the breakdown by sector and industry to follow at a later date.

Total business investment was -0.5% lower than in the 2nd quarter at £52.2 billion, although this is +3.5% higher than a year earlier and the 4-quarter rolling average showed an increase of +4.5% over the previous 4-quarter period.

The only breakdown we have at this stage if the analysis by type of asset and here the news is more positive;  total investment is broken-down into 5 groups – transport equipment, dwellings, other buildings, intellectual property products and ICT & other machinery” – with the last of these of most interest to the manufacturing technology spectrum.  Spending on this asset type was worth £17.4 billion, a rise of +4.1% compared to the 2nd quarter, +4.0% compared to a year earlier and the 4-quarter moving average increased by +8.1%.

During most of the 2010’s, ICT & other machinery typically accounted for a little under 30% of total business investment but since the start of 2021 it has been above this point and the latest reading is exactly one-third (33.3%) of the value of business investment.

You can download the ONS Statistical Bulletin and the investment data files from their web-site at (11 November) or if you contact Geoff Noon at MTA ([email protected]) we can send you our analysis of the investment data most relevant to our industry, including updated versions of the charts from our recent Forecast Seminar.


UK Foreign Trade, 3rd Quarter 2022:  The final piece of the jigsaw of data published last week by the ONS was the trade data.  This is all over the place at the moment thanks to some strange trade patterns in non-monetary gold so the data in this note excludes all precious metals (of which the gold is a large part).  You should also note that there is still some uncertainty about the data for imports from the EU as a result of the changes in methodology and regulations as a result of Brexit.  It is most obvious in the detailed machine tool data but is important elsewhere.

Total exports of goods from the UK in the 3rd quarter increased by 3.4% compared to the 2nd period of the year to £101.3 billion.  For exports, trade with both the EU and the rest of the world were higher than in the previous quarter but with strong growth for the former group.

The increase in deliveries to the EU was mainly due to fuel (see below) and machinery & transport equipment, while for the rest of the world, the rise in exports was again from the machinery & transport equipment sector, partly off-set by falls in shipments of fuels.

On the same basis, total goods imports were worth £162.3 billion, an increase of +2.0% on the previous quarter.  For this flow, the geographical trends are different with imports from the EU falling compared to the previous quarter but with a rise in arrivals from the rest of the world.

The fall in EU imports was led by the machinery & transport equipment and chemicals industries.  On the other hand, the increase in arrivals from the rest of the world were driven by a large increase in imports of fuels which is linked to the increase in the price of oil as well as LNG imports that were being sent to the EU via pipeline – there was also a rise in the machinery & transport equipment group.

Finally, our analysis of the trade data for machine tools shows that UK exports in the 3rd quarter were worth £125.6 million;  this is a fall of -1.3% compared to the previous quarter and -3.8% compared to the same period in 2021.  The export data has been running at more or less this level through 2022 and the year-to-date figure is £385.1 million, a fall of -1.2% compared to January to September 2021.

The first part of the story is similar for machine tool imports but the year-to-date figures are very different thanks to a strong first half of the year and especially Q1 where our comment above about the change in methodology comes into play.  In the 3rd quarter of 2022, UK machine tool imports were worth £150.0 million – this is a fall of -4.7% compared to the previous quarter but it is +8.1% higher than in Q3-21.  In the first three quarters of the year, machine tool imports were wroth £513.7 million, an increase of +36.2% on the same period in 2021.

You can download the ONS Statistical Bulletins from their web-site at (11 November) or request them from MTA – contact Geoff Noon (email:  [email protected]) if you would like the analysis of trade in machine tools.


UK Productivity estimate, 3rd Quarter 2022:  There are two principal ways to measure productivity – output per job and output per hour worked, with the latter being the preferred measure as it takes account of short-time or overtime working, so we will focus on that.

The latest data from the ONS shows that output per hour is +2.0% higher than the average for 2019 (taken to be the pre-pandemic level) as a result of an increase in gross value added (GVA – the measure of output) and a fall in the number of hours worked.

The more short-term data relies on comparisons with Covid affected periods, so is less reliable but productivity on this measure in the 3rd quarter was +0.2% higher than in the previous period – in this case because the number of hours worked fell faster than GVA.  Compared to a year earlier, output per hour increased by +1.4% as GVA grew faster than hours worked.

All of these trends are for the whole economy and, unfortunately, for some reason, the ONS has not published the usual sector/industry breakdown of the data on this occasion.

You can access the ONS bulletin and data files from their web-site at (15 November) or request them from MTA.

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