The UK goods producing sector significantly underperformed expectations in July. Overall industrial production fell 0.4 percent on the month, matching its June decline, while the key manufacturing sector contracted a hefty 0.8 percent, easily eclipsing a 0.2 percent rise last time.
The monthly fall in manufacturing output reflected decreases in seven of the thirteen reporting subsectors. Within this, the steepest drop was posted by basic metals and metals products (5.7 percent), mainly due to weakness in weapons production which can be very volatile and this alone accounted for half of the overall decline. The second largest negative impact came from transportation equipment which subtracted 0.3 percentage points from monthly growth. However, outside of these categories performances were rather better and in particular there was a solid 5.8 percent gain in pharmaceuticals, in part courtesy of surprisingly buoyant export demand.
Total industrial production found some support from a 0.4 percent monthly increase in the volatile mining and quarrying subsector together with rises in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning (1.3 percent) as well as in water and waste management (0.5 percent).
The latest data leave overall goods production in July 0.6 percent below its second quarter average and, on the same basis, manufacturing output down some 0.9 percent. The August manufacturing PMI (51.5) was less than bullish and while last month probably saw kind of a rebound, it looks as if industrial production will not provide much of a boost to real GDP growth this quarter. Whether the Fed tightens or not this month, there is still little pressure on the BoE MPC to hike any time soon.
Industrial production measures the physical output of the mining and quarrying, manufacturing, gas and electric, and water supply and sewerage sectors.
Industrial and manufacturing outputs are watched carefully by market participants despite the decline in the importance of manufacturing in the UK economy. Manufacturing output is the preferred number rather than industrial production which can be unduly influenced by electrical generation and weather. The manufacturing index is widely used as a short-term economic indicator in its own right by both the Bank of England and the UK government. Market analysts also focus on manufacturing and its sub-sectors to get insight on industry performance.
Industrial production accounts for less than 16 percent of the economy within which the key manufacturing sector is worth about ten percentage points. Total manufacturing is divided into thirteen sub-sectors, ranging from food, drink and tobacco through chemicals and chemical products to electronics and transport equipment. Consequently, this report has a big influence on market behavior. In any given month, one can see whether capital goods or consumer goods are growing more rapidly. Are manufacturers still producing construction supplies and other materials? This detailed report shows which sectors of the economy are growing and which are not.
Investors want to keep their finger on the pulse of the economy because it usually dictates how various types of investments will perform. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers more subdued growth that won't lead to inflationary pressures. By tracking economic data such as industrial production, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for these markets and their portfolios.