Recession or no recession? You decide

British manufacturers have upped their game, according to new PMI data from Markit. And the financial sector is also bouncing back, with CFO confidence up and a hiring spree in the first quarter.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
One week we’re in recession, the next we’re not. The economic hokey cokey continues. Today, the Markit Purchasing Managers Index shows that manufacturing growth is at a ten-month high. March figures stand at a modest52.1, up from 51.5 in February. And when it comes to PMI, 50 is the magic number: anything above this figure means growth.

The handful of PMI points may not look like much but, compared to the eurozone ‘manufacturing malaise’ (the PMI shows a contraction in the bloc from 49 in February to 47.7 in March), Britain is positively thriving. Markit does warn that much of the industry growth comes from fulfilling a backlog of orders rather than a flood of new business, and that raw materials prices are still putting a dampener on margins, but hi ho, it’s a silver lining of sorts.

And with the OECD reckoning we're already in recession, it’s a real boon for the economy that manufacturing isn’t adding extra drag to GDP in these volatile first months of 2012.

The financial services sector is also doing its bit to prop up the economy. New figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the CBI found that business volumes in the three months to March grew for the eighth quarter in a row. Even more heartening, 19% of finance firms hired new staff in the quarter, ‘putting the sector's recovery on a firmer footing,’ according to the CBI’s chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty.

And it’s not just the figures that are looking more cheerful, CFOs are too. A quarterly survey by professional services firm Deloitte shows that only 30% of 136 chief financial officers at some of Britain’s biggest companies believe the economy will fall back into recession, down from 57% back in December.

So, good news today. But as always with the economic hokey cokey, tomorrow’s news could turn it around. Because that’s what it’s all about…

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