Weakest improvement in manufacturing in the Netherlands conditions in nearly three years in April
New orders continued to rise only marginally, resulting in a rate of output growth that remained well below the strong trends set in 2017 and 2018.
Firms were also able to reduce their backlogs of work at the fastest pace in more than four years, signalling spare capacity in the goods-producing sector.
The 12-month outlook for activity was the weakest in over three years.
The NEVI Netherlands Manufacturing PMI is a composite single-figure indicator of manufacturing performance derived from indicators for new orders, output, employment, suppliers’ delivery times and stocks of purchases.
The PMI fell for the fourth month running to 52.0 in April, from 52.5 in March, signalling the slowest overall growth of the sector since June 2016.
It was also below its long-run trend level of 52.7 (since 2000).
At the sub-sector level, business conditions were strongest in consumer goods, followed by investment and intermediate goods respectively.
Having slowed almost to a halt in March, growth of new orders remained weak in April.
Over the past two months new business expansion has been the weakest registered over the current 38-month period of growth.
Data signalled that new export orders rose more strongly than domestic contracts, despite some reports of soft demand from a number of European markets.
The fractional rate of new order growth resulted in another relatively weak increase in output when compared with the strong expansion seen in 2017-18.
Although consumer goods output rose sharply, this was partly offset by weak increases in both the intermediate and investment goods categories.
Higher production partly reflected the clearance of order backlogs.
The volume of incomplete business fell for the fifth time in seven months, and at the fastest rate since February 2015.
Meanwhile, the level of finished goods held in stock fell for the first time in seven months.
The manufacturing labour market remained resilient despite the recent slowdown in the sector.
Employment rose for a survey-record fiftieth consecutive month and at a slightly faster rate than in March, albeit one that was weaker than the trend for 2017-18.
Input price inflation picked up to a three-month high in April, but remained well below the levels seen in 2018.
A similar trend was evident for output prices.
Dutch manufacturers remained confident of output growth over the next 12 months, but the overall strength of sentiment eased further in April to the weakest since November 2015. ■