GROWTH in UK manufacturing output volumes has slowed and export order books have deteriorated, a survey has shown.

But the state of manufacturers' overall order books has improved modestly.

The Confederation of British Industry, which published the survey yesterday, said it showed that activity in the sector remained robust even though some indicators were a "little cooler" than in February.

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The survey was conducted between February 20 and March 12, and 368 manufacturers responded.

Subtracting the proportion reporting a fall from that posting a rise, a net 15% of UK manufacturers reported an increase in output volumes over the past three months. This signalled a slowdown in output growth, given that a net 24% had reported a rise in output volumes over the past three months in the CBI's February industrial trends survey.

Subtracting the proportion of manufacturers considering export order books to be better than usual from that believing them to be below normal, a net 10% said they were worse than usual. A net 1% had reported below normal export order books in the previous survey.

However, a net 6% of manufacturers reported total order books were above normal. This was an improvement from a balance of 3% reporting such a position in the previous monthly survey.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said: "The picture in the manufacturing sector remains positive. Overall, demand continues to rise and output growth is robust."

She put the poor export orders in the context of eurozone economic weakness.