The latest reading signalled the strongest upturn in manufacturing operating conditions for exactly three years. Stronger contributions from the employment, inventories and suppliers’ delivery times components helped to lift the headline PMI in March.
Latest data also pointed to robust rises in manufacturing production and new orders, although in both cases the rates of expansion eased since February.
Meanwhile, input buying increased at the fastest pace since September 2014, which a number of survey respondents linked to pre-purchasing and stock building ahead of expected raw material price rises (particularly steel-related items).
Efforts to boost pre-production inventories also led to intense pressure on supply chains. The latest lengthening of lead-times from vendors was the greatest recorded since the snow-related disruptions seen in early-2014.
Manufacturers signalled a steep and accelerated rise in their average cost burdens in March, which was overwhelmingly attributed to rising raw material prices. The overall rate of input cost inflation was the fastest since September 2011.
A number of survey respondents cited higher prices for metals and increased charges by suppliers amid strong demand for raw materials. At the same time, factory gate charges rose at the strongest pace for just over six-and-a-half years in March.