Surge in manufacturing output raises hopes for recovery

Activity in the UK's manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest rate since 1994, a new survey has revealed.

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply's purchasing managers' index climbed to 57.2 in March, up from 56.5 in February.

The index draws on information about new orders, production, employment and purchasing. Any mark above 50 on the index indicates growth, any mark below, contraction.

The rise was better than had been predicted and represented the most impressive rate of monthly growth in almost 16 years.

The index also showed that new order growth in the UK was close to a six-year peak in March.

Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, which helped to compile the survey, said: "The rebound is coming from a broad base by sector and company size, raising hopes that this will prove sustainable."

Although the rate of growth in export orders dipped from the high recorded in February, the weakness of the pound is continuing to help UK firms sell abroad.

Germany and France, the two largest economies in Europe, also enjoyed a strong boost in manufacturing growth.