Mar 1 2013
Figures showing a shock fall in manufacturing activity have fuelled fears that Britain is heading for a triple-dip recession.
The latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) revealed that overall activity contracted as output fell, with a headline reading of 47.9 in February - below the 50 level which separates growth from contraction.
The index slipped into the red for the first time since last November as the UK continued to be battered by poor weather and manufacturers suffered tough conditions both at home and abroad.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: "The return to contraction of the manufacturing sector is a big surprise and represents a major setback to hopes that the UK economy can return to growth in the first quarter and may avoid a triple-dip recession.
"The data so far this year point to manufacturing output falling by as much as 0.5%, meaning a strong rebound is needed in March to prevent the sector from acting as a drag on the economy as a whole in the first quarter."