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Economy in Brief

More Industrial Production: Lackluster in the UK, Trending Upward in South Africa
by Carol Stone June 9, 2005

Industrial production picked up in the UK in April, rising 0.8%, the first increase since December. Metals, machinery, wood and paper products and electrical machinery were among the main movers in April's upturn. Beneficial to UK industry as this was, it still left production down 2.7% from a year ago. The manufacturing sector is also off by that amount and the mining sector, even more. Notably, among mining divisions, the energy sector has been lagging, while non-energy mining output is climbing. Year-on-year declines in the manufacturing sector are widespread, with output of textiles, paper, and electrical machinery all down at least 7%; thus, gains for all of these in April are gratifying, although that in textiles is quite small at 0.4%, month-on-month. Overall, the UK industrial sector appears hesitant, and with sluggishness in the industrial sector mirrored in employment and also most recent in a decline in new home construction starts.

South Africa also reported April production data today. That nation's industrial activity looks much healthier, with widespread uptrends in both factory and mining sectors. Output of manufactures is up vigorously, with a 2.8% month-on-month rise in April, capping a 7.1% yearly gain. The largest increases are in food, glass, motor vehicles and furniture. South Africa's mining sector saw a monthly decrease, but trends there are generally strong, with output of nearly every major mineral well above a year ago. Copper, for instance, has seen year-to-year increases the last two months, apparently ending a long decline. "Other" metals have risen 27% and diamonds, 33.5%. Only nickel and gold show year-over-year declines. Mining represents nearly a quarter of total industry in South Africa, compared with 14% in the UK.

Industrial Production Apr 2005 Mar 2005 Year Ago 2004 2003 2002
UK Total 0.8 -1.0 -2.7 0.5 -0.1 -2.5
  Manufacturing 0.9 -1.6 -2.7 1.4 0.5 -3.1
  Mining 0.6 1.3 -5.8 -7.8 -5.3 -0.3
South Africa -- -- -- -- -- --
  Manufacturing 2.8 0.7 7.1 4.3 -1.9 4.5
  Mining -3.2 12.9 7.1 3.9 4.0 0.8
  Mining ex Gold -2.0 15.0 12.6 7.3 7.2 0.8
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