New orders rise at fastest rate for 4.5 years

Grant Prior 10 years ago
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Construction buyers reported a “marked expansion” in activity last month as new orders grew at their fastest rate in four-and-a-half years.

The bullish results pushed the Markit/CIPS Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index up to 56.7 from 54.3 in February.

Any figure above 50 on the sentiment survey represents an increase in output.

The results are in stark contrast to recent official output figures and were pushed along by growth in the commercial sector.

All three main sectors – commercial, housing and civil engineering – recorded rises.

David Noble, Chief Executive Officer at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said: “The unexpectedly strong rise in new orders has been a boon to the confidence of construction purchasing managers, which reached a 22-month high in March, albeit was still lower than pre-recession levels.

“Driven by stronger growth in activity in the commercial and civil engineering sectors and positive sounds from customers at the end of what has been a much brighter first quarter for construction, the modest rise in employment shows that companies are now starting to develop an appetite for expansion.

“However, some supply side constraints remain, with suppliers unable to speed up the delivery of materials. Furthermore, continued upward pressure on input prices remains.”

Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit said: “The good weather appears to have led to a surge in demand for construction projects in March, adding to the recent flow of good news which suggests the economy will have skirted a recession.

“Construction companies reported the largest monthly rise in new orders for four-and-a-half years, driving building activity higher at the fastest rate since mid-2010.

“Coupled with increasing activity recorded in the first two months of the year, this bodes well for the sector’s contribution to overall growth of the economy in the first quarter and will raise hopes that the country has avoided a slide back into recession.

“Looking ahead, the lack of big new projects such as Crossrail and the Olympics means expectations about the year ahead continued to run well below the pre-crisis peaks, but business confidence nevertheless reached the highest for nearly two years, driven up by expectations of increases in new order intakes and improving client optimism.

“The particularly encouraging news is that the improvement in confidence is generating more jobs, with employment rising modestly.”

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