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British manufacturing picks up

A SHARP increase in car production helped Britain's industrial sector grow again in April, though manufacturers in France and Sweden continued to reel from the slump in global trade, official figures showed yesterday.

Figures showed that industrial production in Britain rose by 0.3 percent between March and April. Analysts were expecting a 0.1 percent fall.

The picture was not as rosy in France, where industrial output slumped by a monthly rate of 1.4 percent, way ahead of analysts' expectations for only a 0.2 percent fall, largely because of big falls in energy and refining.

Meanwhile, the fall in Sweden was even bigger, with output down a massive 2.1 percent, again outstripping market expectations of a far more modest decline.

Analysts said Britain's manufacturers may be benefiting from the big destocking that has taken place as well as the competitive boost provided by the sharp fall in the pound over the last year or so. A lower pound makes British exports more competitive in the international marketplace.

Ross Walker, economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said chemicals and engineering led the way in Britain, with the latter underpinned by a 3.1 percent rise in transport equipment as car production came back on stream after extended shutdowns.

Earlier this month, thousands of workers at Japanese car maker Honda returned to work in Swindon, England, after four months.

Walker said there's now every chance that the sector may record growth in the April-June quarter - the first time since the fourth quarter of 2007.

"The increase in production in April and any further rises over the next few months are the easy gains," he said. "We remain more agnostic about medium-term prospects as the major imbalances in the global economy and demand are still likely to dampen trend growth over the next cycle."


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