UK manufacturing growth slows to 20 month low in May

Car production line
Image caption The government hopes manufacturing will lead the UK's economic recovery

The UK's manufacturing sector grew at its weakest pace in almost two years in May, a survey suggests.

The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 52.1 last month from a downwardly-revised 54.4 in April.

Any reading above 50 indicates growth in the sector.

UK manufacturing has been one of the best performing sectors of the economy since the recession, but recent figures suggest growth is slowing.

"The UK PMI suggests that manufacturing has moved from rapid expansion to near stagnation," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit.

'Pretty poor'

Although the PMI stayed above 50 for the 22nd consecutive month, May's reading of 52.1 is the lowest recorded since September 2009.

Markit said production and new orders fell slightly for the first time since the middle of 2009.

The consumer goods sector and smaller-scale manufacturers were hit hardest, it added.

Analysts said the data raised questions about growth in the wider economy.

"The PMI was pretty poor. It does indicate that the economy is losing momentum," said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

On a brighter note, Markit said manufacturing staffing levels continued to rise while inflation in input costs had slowed.

David Noble, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, which helps compile the survey, said growth in the sector may have bottomed out.

"With the level of export orders still rising and the rate of inflation easing somewhat, we expect that May will come to be seen as an anomaly," he said.

"However, the underlying trend is likely to remain one of slower growth compared with the start of the year."

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