Activity in Britain's manufacturing sector has eased off from its recent pace of acceleration but still stumped up "solid" output and order growth in December.

The closely watched Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed a reading of 56.3 last month, down from 58.2 in November, with economists expecting a figure of 57.9.

A reading of more than 50 indicates growth in the sector.

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While output levels from consumer goods producers rolled back, intermediate and investment goods motored ahead thanks to rising demand from overseas.

UK producers enjoyed a healthy appetite from Europe, China, the Middle East and America, helping to drive a further rise in employment.

It means the manufacturing industry churned out an average reading of 57 for final three months of the year - its best performance since the second quarter of 2014.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said UK manufacturing ended the year on a positive footing. "Although growth of output and new orders moderated during December, rates of expansion remained comfortably above long-term trend rates," he said. "The sector has therefore broadly maintained its solid boost to broader economic expansion in the fourth quarter.

"The outlook is also reasonably bright, with over 50 per cent of companies expecting production to be higher one year from now," he added.

In spite of sterling's Brexit-induced slump keeping costs high, around 54 per cent of firms are pencilling in a rise in production for the year ahead.

Samuel Tombs, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief UK economist, said the manufacturing industry will struggle to maintain momentum this year.

He said: "UK manufacturers have cut investment since the Brexit vote and are struggling to find skilled workers. As result, work backlogs are increasing quickly and supply chain delays are worsening.

"These constraints will only worsen as the recovery continues, unless manufacturers suddenly ramp up investment," he added, also citing the recent increase in oil prices, which have touched $67. This, he said has "darkened the outlook for low value-added production".

"Accordingly, we expect the recovery in the manufacturing sector to lose its current vitality soon."