Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, said manufacturing weakness seen during 2018 reaffirmed its view that GDP growth is likely to have slowed to 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter, from 0.6% in the third quarter.
"The current low level of the PMI would normally be sufficiently weak to have triggered a cut in interest rates or other stimulus from the Bank of England in order to revive demand and avoid further downward pressure on future prices". The latest upturn in staffing levels was only marginal and the weakest recorded for nearly two-and-a-half years.
However, mirroring new orders, the rate of expansion of output eased and was the slowest in nine months.
"Quebec was a notable outperformer in December as manufacturing conditions improved at the fastest pace for four months". Markets have priced out any increase in the next 12 months, even as BOE Mark Carney warned that a disorderly exit from the European Union may force the bank to raise rates to contain inflation. The latest reading was the lowest for three months and signalled a marginal reduction in post-production inventories.
"That showed external demand remained subdued due to the trade frictions between China and the USA, while domestic demand weakened more notably", according to Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, a subsidiary of Caixin.
The slowdown, the index said, reflected "softer rises" in commercial and housing activity in December, with commercial building the worst performing category.
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The seasonally adjusted Suppliers' Delivery Times Index remained well below the 50.0 no-change value in December, thereby signalling a sustained deterioration in vendor performance.
However there was some positive news, with Markit adding that December had seen the strongest expansion in factory activity since June, with more new businesses joining the sector.
Higher wages were cited as a key factor leading to rising input costs at service providers in December.
Input prices continued to rise in December, albeit at a weaker pace than in the past few months.
Business confidence towards the year-ahead outlook stayed close to last October's near six-year low. This was the first reduction since February 2016.
Manufacturers noted that greater concern about the domestic economic outlook had weighed on their growth projections for 2019.