Manufacturing confidence improves

Manufacturing confidence and product volumes improved at the end of 2012 and early 2013, according to two surveys.

New Zealand's total manufacturing volumes rose for the December 2012 quarter, despite a small fall in meat and dairy product manufacturing, Statistics NZ says.

After adjusting for price changes and seasonal variations, the volume of total manufacturing sales rose 1.5 per cent, while the meat and dairy manufacturing sales volume fell 1.1 per cent, the agency said.

''While still an increase, this is something of a reversal from the previous quarter, when high meat and dairy manufacturing sales more than compensated for falls in other manufacturing industries,'' industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno said.

''This quarter, seven of the other 12 manufacturing industries contributed to the overall increase.''

The largest increases in the quarter were in metal product manufacturing, up 5.4 per cent, and petroleum and coal product manufacturing, up 6.4 per cent.

These two industries partly recovered from decreases in recent quarters.

The trend for the volume of manufacturing sales, which gives a longer-term picture of movements, has been rising since late 2011.

In current prices, the total manufacturing sales value was flat, up only $1 million to a seasonally adjusted $22.8 billion, the government agency said.

In a separate survey run by the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) of business conditions completed during February 2013, shows total sales in January 2013 increased 7.71 per cent.

Export sales increased by 17.23 per cent with domestic sales decreasing 0.02 per cent on January 2012, the same month year earlier.

The NZMEA survey sample covered $221m in annualised sales for January, with an export content of 49 per cent.

Net confidence rose to minus-9, up from the minus-14 result reported for December. Staff numbers for January increased year on year by 2.03 per cent.

''We are seeing positive increases in exports for January, but confidence, although improved on last month [December] is still negative,'' NZMEA chief executive John Walley said.

''Overall trends are hard to pick, but it seems they are zero to slightly positive in recent months.''

Walley said the association also received comment from manufacturers that finding entry level staff was difficult, especially in the Christchurch region as the rebuild gathered a little pace.

''The overall feeling is that things remain a struggle but efforts endure, however if the dollar continues to appreciate [the sector's] future is questioned and we will see significant loss of activity in New Zealand.''

The Press