British manufacturing orders fell in October but by the smallest amount since March, according to a survey on Thursday that showed an improvement in expectations despite a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) monthly order book balance – the difference between factories reporting a rise and a fall in orders – became less negative in October at -34, compared with -48 in September.
While still historically low, it was the best reading since March and above the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists that had pointed to a figure of -45.
“Conditions remain tough in the manufacturing sector, with output and orders still down on the quarter, albeit to a lesser degree,” said CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith.
The CBI’s quarterly gauge of business optimism rose to its highest level since January.
“The government must stay on the front foot when it comes to providing support for the sector and wider economy,” Newton-Smith said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to address parliament later on Thursday on economic support measures.