Irish manufacturing growth hits 14-month high

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DUBLIN, Oct 1 (Reuters) Strongly rising orders and robust output helped to push growth in Ireland's manufacturing sector to a 14-month high last month despite signs of weakness elsewhere in Europe, a survey showed on Monday.

The NCB Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which measures Irish manufacturing activity, rose to 54.4 in September from 54.3 in August, hitting its highest level since July 2006.

The index has now been above the 50.0 mark, separating growth from contraction, in each month since September 2003.

''The September survey shows that growth in manufacturing activity held up very well into the autumn with orders rising at a strong pace and employment gains increasing,'' said Dermot O'Brien, chief economist with NCB Stockbrokers.

''This resilience is heartening in light of less positive indications elsewhere in Europe.'' New orders growth in Ireland picked up to 56.5 from 56.1 the month before to hit its highest point in 15 months.

At 54.6 new export orders were the highest since June 2006 as growth in demand from overseas accelerated for the fourth month in a row after two months of contraction in April and May.

''The robust increase in new export orders was reported by a number of firms to reflect greater demand from clients in the UK,'' survey compilers NTC Economics wrote in a commentary.

Production rose robustly in September, even if the output index was a shade lower at 56.2 after August's one-year high of 56.5 The jobs picture improved for the third month in a row, rising to 51.5 from 51.2 in August and a reading of 49.8 in July that had indicated a shrinking labour market. The employment component of September's index was the highest since February.

''Higher new order volumes led many manufacturers to hire extra staff, while there were also reports that the introduction of new product lines required additional employees,'' NTC said.

Rises in input costs remained strong as companies pointed to higher commodity prices although at 60.8 the rate of inflation was below levels seen in the three previous months.

REUTERS SR BD1533

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