More UK exporters reported a decrease in orders in the first quarter of the year, with cash-flow and confidence also dipping — according to the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook from the British Chambers of Commerce (in partnership with DHL).
The report, based on the responses of over 3,400 exporters, shows that 23% of manufacturers and 20% of service firms saw their export order books decline in the first three months of the year — the highest figure for both since Q2 2017 when records began.
Two thirds of exporting manufacturers said exchange rates were of greater concern to them than in the previous three months, reflecting sterling volatility ahead of the original Brexit deadline — and exporters continue to report considerable price pressures, which for manufacturers is mainly driven by the cost of raw materials.
According to the findings, nearly a quarter of exporters reported a decrease in cash-flow (this is considered to be a key indicator of the financial health of a business).
Moreover, the BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documents issued by Accredited Chambers of Commerce for goods shipments outside the EU, stood at 124.04 (Q1 2007 = 100); this represents a fall of 1% on the quarter and is 2.3% lower than Q1 2018.
Hannah Essex, co-executive director at the British Chambers of Commerce (www.britishchambers.org.uk
), said: “It has been a trying time for many exporters, with uncertainty in the run-up to the Brexit deadlines and continued trade tensions combining to flatten orders and confidence; and while the future relationship with Europe remains unresolved, so too do the future terms of trade with many other important trading partners.”
Shannon Diett, vice president of marketing at DHL Express, said: “This quarter’s report shows a small decline in the Trade Confidence Index, alongside a decline in export orders, cash-flow and confidence regarding future exports.
This paints a fairly bleak picture, when the results are taken in isolation.
“However, we are all aware that uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations was at its peak in Q1 2019.”