The quarterly version of the survey shows that firms’ orders growth has held up, with export orders in particular remaining healthy.

Demand has continued to grow, with 28% of firms saying total new orders increased in the three months to January and 17% reporting a decrease. This balance of +11% exceeded expectations and was broadly in line with the previous four surveys. Slower growth is expected in the next three months (a balance of +4%).

Despite the ongoing credit squeeze, manufacturing firms do not report that access to or cost of external finance is a factor likely to limit either output or investment expenditure.

Skilled labour shortages are less likely to constrain output and investment expenditure than in the last six months.

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: “Manufacturers share similar concerns to other sectors about the economy, a fear that rising costs might become combined with slowing demand.”