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Economy in Brief

UK CBI Orders Take a Walk on the Wild Side
by Robert Brusca  July 27, 2011

The Confederation of British industry (CBI) survey for industrial trades is showing a clear weakening profile for orders, its cycle-leading component. These trends essentially confirm what the early, or 'flash,' UK GDP reading told us: that GDP in the UK is withering and growth trends are eroding. With UK inflation over the top of the BOE's range and stuck there for an extended period of time and with growth lagging the future tradeoffs for policy are increasingly grim.

The chart showing sequential growth rates for orders makes it clear that any of the traditional growth rates for CBI orders produce negative trends. The Yr/Yr orders of turning sharply lower and the three-month annualized growth rates are in a dive as well.

Export orders produced a -8 net reading in July while stocks of finished goods are in a growing mode; that's not the best of things with sales (shipments) turning sour and shrinking.

However, the outlook for the volume of output remains steady at a +6 reading for August. But instead of that being good news it represents a sharp deviation from what had been much stronger numbers: +13 in June and +20 in May and +22 in April yes these are the earlier months of 2011. The outlook in the UK is being cut fast.

The percentile standings tell the story… The raw diffusion readings are not directly comparable across components for relative strength as each component has a different intrinsic range of fluctuation and volatility. At a -10 reading orders stand in the 69th percentile of their range since 1990 while at +6 reading for 'volume over the next three-months' the range standing lies in the 64th percentile of its historic range. Viewed on another ranking metric, the position in their historic queue of values, we find that orders in July stand in the 70th percentile of their historic queue (top 30%) while volume expectations for the three-months ahead lie in the 48th percentile of their queue. Thus the higher value number in the CBI survey actually translates into greater relative weakness. This may reflect an 'optimism bias' on the part of producers who are 'hoping ahead' as much as looking ahead. In short there is not much good news in this CBI survey and what may look to be a 'silver lining' in terms of the outlook for the volume of sales three-months ahead, is not even quicksilver.

Beyond that, the relationship between total orders and export orders shows that both series have run out of gas. Export orders still show a bit more strength, boosting the notion that export orders more than domestic growth has been the leading contributor to the UK industrial expansion. But now that point is moot as both series have flattened and are falling.

In brief there is not much good news from British manufacturing and perhaps the challenges to growth ahead will prove to be too much for the sector to overcome.

UK Industrial volume data CBI Survey
Reported Aug
Pcntle Max Min Range
Total Orders -- -10 1 -2 -11 -10 69% 13 -61 74
Export Orders -- -8 0 -3 -6 -2 63% 20 -55 75
Stocks:FinGds -- 12 3 9 8 6 42% 31 -2 33
Looking ahead
Output Volume:Nxt 3M 6 6 13 20 22 16 64% 36 -48 84
Avg Prices 4Nxt 3M 4 27 24 36 33 23 52% 36 -30 66
From early 1989
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