LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - British factory orders fell at the slowest pace since March this month and firms are more upbeat about the months to come, after the economic impact of COVID-19 caused the biggest collapse in demand since 1980 over the previous quarter.
The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) monthly order book balance rose to -46 in July from -58 in June. This was its highest reading since March but a weaker number than the average forecast of -38 in a Reuters poll of economists.
A separate quarterly measure of factory orders for the three months to July was its lowest since 1980, though quarterly output expectations picked up to their strongest since April 2018 and pointed to a recovery in activity.
“Manufacturers continue to face extreme hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.
“There are tentative signs of gradual recovery on the horizon, with firms expecting output and orders to begin to pick up in the next three months. But demand still remains deeply depressed,” she added. (Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)