COVID-19: UK supply chains take a knock

Manufacturing supply chains are being slowed by the coronavirus outbreak, as factory closures in China hamper deliveries of components and parts.

This is the conclusion of analysts at ING following the publication of the latest UK purchasing managers indices from IHS Markit/CIPS.

A nine-point drop in the supplier delivery component of the PMI (a sign that deliveries are taking longer) represents the sharpest month-on-month slide since the index first started in 1992.

"In normal times, an increase in supplier delivery times would be interpreted as a positive signal. It is taken as a signal that firms are grappling with more orders, such that it is taking longer to fulfil them," the briefing note states. "In this case, though, the rationale is rather less positive – and suggests that not all of the rise in the manufacturing PMI is for ‘good’ reasons."

Whilst the index does not show the precise extent of the issue, it does at least point to a challenging couple of months ahead with a short-term hit to production.

Meantime, no change for the UK in terms of the virus itself, with the number of patients in England to have tested positive for coronavirus still nine -- as it has been for a over week. The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England reports that, as of 20th February, 5,549 people have been tested for the virus.

How many of these individuals took themselves along, and how many were advised by medical professionals to do so is not obvious, but a look over the overall numbers from the past few days at least reveals a significant deceleration in tests undertaken -- to just 300 carried out in the 24 hours to the 20th. It was double that on the previous day, and over four times that on the day before.

Official World Health Organisation data, also from the 20th February, reports 75,748 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus globally, of which 548 were confirmed in the previous 24 hours – considerably less than the previous 24 hours. Again, the majority of these (399) were in China. For the first time in many days, however, one new country (Iran) reported cases of the virus in the past 24 hours.

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