U.K. Manufacturing Activity Improved Sharply in April

By Wiktor SzaryFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

U.K. manufacturing activity grew at the fastest clip in three years in April, as new orders and exports gathered pace, a survey showed Tuesday, suggesting the industry began the second quarter of the year on a solid footing.

The purchasing managers index for the British manufacturing sector rose to 57.3 in April, bouncing from March's four-month low of 54.2. This was well above the expectations of analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal, who forecast a reading of 54.0.

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"The weak sterling exchange rate helped manufacturers take full advantage of the recent signs of revival in the global economy, and especially the eurozone," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

While manufacturing accounts only for around 10% of the U.K. economy, the growth in activity bodes well for the broader economy whose growth slowed sharply in the first quarter as consumers pared back spending in the face of accelerating inflation.

The slackening in growth came ahead of a national election June 8 and as British and European officials begin talks over Britain's EU exit, expected to last at least two years.

Write to Wiktor Szary at Wiktor.Szary@wsj.com

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May 02, 2017 05:25 ET (09:25 GMT)