Small firms ‘more optimistic’

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BUSINESS sentiment among small and medium-sized manufacturers has risen for the first time since mid-2011, a survey by the CBI business group said today.

A balance of 22 per cent of small and medium sized manufacturers surveyed said they were more optimistic regarding their business situation in the three months to April, the CBI said.

The majority of respondents saw a modest rise in total new orders and expect to see faster growth over the next three months, driven by both domestic and export order growth, the CBI said.

Lucy Armstrong, chairman of the CBI’s SME council, said: “Small and medium-sized manufacturers are feeling more optimistic for the first time in a year, an encouraging development given the important role that they play in our economy.

“Indeed, firms expect orders and output to rise strongly in the coming quarter and plan to invest more in the year ahead, pointing to growing momentum in manufacturing activity.”

Output was broadly flat for the second quarter running among small and medium-sized manufacturers, the CBI said, but is expected to see a significant increase in the next three months.

The majority of respondents also expect to increase employment in the next quarter, having held headcount steady in the three months to April.

A Markit/CIPS survey revealed the manufacturing sector unveiled its weakest rate of growth so far this year in April, following decent growth in the previous months.

The improvement in business sentiment comes despite the UK economy entering a technical recession in the first quarter of 2012.