Britain's main factory orders index rebounded in February to its highest level in six months, boosting hopes that the economy is on track for recovery, the CBI's monthly industrial trends survey showed on Thursday.
The Confederation of British Industry survey's total order book balance jumped to -3 from -16 in January, well above economists' forecasts of a reading of -14 and its highest since August last year.
The export order book balance mirrored the move, increasing to -2 from -26, again the highest since August, while the output expectations index held at a 9-month high of +15.
Both domestic and overseas demand have strengthened, underpinning solid expectations for output growth, which is encouraging news, given the particularly difficult period for business in the final quarter of 2011, said CBI chief economic advisor Ian McCafferty.
Recent surveys have suggested the manufacturing sector may have recovered modestly at the start of this year, raising hopes that Britain will avoid falling back into recession.
But official data on Friday is expected to confirm that the economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2011.
Bank of England policymaker David Miles said on Thursday that Britain's economy remained in a precarious state, warranting expansionary monetary policy.
Miles was one of two BoE policymakers who wanted the central bank to expand its quantitative easing programme by 75 billion pounds earlier this month, rather than the 50 billion pounds voted by the remaining seven colleagues.(Reporting by Fiona Shaikh, writing by David Milliken)