Good figures for a Happy New Year

The appearance of the New Year is traditionally a time for making resolutions to amend your errant ways and set yourself on the right path – a path that will lead to health, wealth, happiness, etc. But not always.

Were the UK manufacturing seeking to make a New Year's Resolution, for instance, one would have to say the best thing it could do was carry on with 2011 pretty much as it left 2010. It can't be often in recent times that a year has started so positively for the sector. Indeed, the figures all seem remarkably rosy. In December, the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for manufacturing posted its highest reading since September 1994. The headline PMI has remained above the neutral 50.0 mark for 17 successive months. Manufacturing production rose for the 19th month running in December, underpinned by stronger inflows of new work from both domestic and overseas markets. New export orders rose at the fastest pace since April's series record high, reflecting increased sales to clients in mainland Europe, the US and East Asia. And, given all this, employment for the sector has risen for the ninth successive month. Barclays' head of manufacturing Graeme Allinson called these: "An incredibly positive set of December PMI figures underscores the fact manufacturing continues to outperform the general UK economy." Of course there are always threats. Cost inflationary pressures continue to build and the skills shortage is not going to go away. However, it feels almost churlish to raise these spectres amidst such apparent success. For the moment, the most appropriate response would seem to be to revel in the current levels of positivity and to express a sincere hope for more of the same. So here's to a Happy New Year.