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UK manufacturers’ most pessimistic since financial crisis: CBI

LONDON (Reuters) – British manufacturers are the most pessimistic about the outlook than they have been at any time since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago because of the spread of coronavirus, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said its measure of manufacturing expectations for the next three months sank to -20 from +8 in February.

The balance of order books for March also fell to -29 from -18 but that was slightly less of fall than expected in a Reuters poll of economists which had a median forecast of -35.

“With expectations for output set to fall in the coming months, it’s now more important than ever manufacturers get the support they need,” Anna Leach, the CBI’s deputy chief economist, said.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak announced sweeping measures to help companies, including support for paying wages of workers, last week.

“But all measures must be constantly assessed to ensure the UK’s manufacturing sector emerges from this crisis with the minimum possible damage,” Leach said.

The survey of 288 manufacturers was conducted between Feb. 25 and March 14, since when the government has shut down much of Britain’s economy in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Alistair Smout)