U.K. manufacturing lost a bit of steam last month, with growth slipping to an eight-month low.
IHS Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index eased to 55.2 from 55.3 in January. While the figure was better than forecast and still implies expansion, Markit said it suggests a “marked downshift” in the pace of growth so far this year.
The figures come in the wake of reports showing that both consumer and business confidence remain muted, with the lack of clarity over Brexit playing a part. In a potential further blow to sentiment, the U.K. and the European Union clashed again on Wednesday, raising the specter of a complete breakdown in exit talks.
That same day, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said that companies’ confidence in hiring and investment decisions has fallen to the lowest since the 2016 referendum to leave the bloc.
Markit offered some positive news on manufacturing, with employment and new orders both improving in February, and inventories declining. Still, it said the overall figures were mixed, and they suggest production growth is running at a 0.4 percent quarterly pace. That’s far lower than the rate signaled by the PMI for the fourth quarter, it said.