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Manufacturing output continues to rise sharply in Ireland

Staff Writer |
Growth in the Irish manufacturing sector lost some momentum in February, but business conditions continued to expand at a marked pace nonetheless.

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There were signs of supply chain pressures as delivery times lengthened to the second-greatest extent on record.

Meanwhile, the rate of input cost inflation remained sharp and output prices increased at the fastest pace since last October.

The seasonally adjusted Investec Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) – an indicator designed to provide a single-figure measure of the health of the manufacturing industry – dipped to 56.2 in February from 57.6 in January.

This signalled a further marked monthly improvement in business conditions, albeit the weakest since October last year.

The health of the sector has now strengthened in 57 consecutive months.

Irish manufacturing output increased at a sharp pace during February.

That said, the rate of growth eased for the second month running and was at a four-month low.

Increases in production were primarily linked by panellists to higher new orders, with new export business mentioned in particular by some firms.

Total new orders followed a similar trend to output, with the rate of expansion easing from that seen in January.

On the other hand, new export business increased at a faster pace.

There was further evidence of capacity constraints, both in supply chains and at manufacturing firms themselves.

Backlogs of work continued to rise, albeit at a reduced pace.

Manufacturers attempted to alleviate some capacity pressure by increasing employment sharply again.

Some respondents indicated that extra staff had been hired in line with expected increases in new work in coming months.

Predictions of improving demand also encouraged firms to raise their stocks of finished goods.

Meanwhile, suppliers’ delivery times lengthened to the second-greatest extent in the survey’s history, with the latest deterioration only marginally weaker than August 2010’s record.

Panellists indicated that higher demand for inputs had imparted pressure on capacity at suppliers.

Purchasing activity rose, extending the current period of expansion to a year-and-a-half.

The increase was the weakest in close to a year, however, and insufficient to support an accumulation of stocks of purchases.

Pre-production inventories were broadly unchanged, ending a six-month sequence of rising stocks.

The rate of input cost inflation remained above the series average in February.

A range of raw materials were reportedly up in price, with electronic items, paper and steel most widely mentioned.

Further increases in cost burdens led firms to raise their selling prices.

Moreover, the rate of charge inflation quickened to a four-month high.

Firms generally expect output to rise further over the coming 12 months, with confidence linked to the launch of new products, business expansion plans and predicted rises in new orders.


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