Converting industry organization Picon says UK based equipment manufacturers now have their highest export hopes for three years.

According to its latest survey, in the final quarter of 2000 prospects for export trade "staged a remarkable turnaround from the preceding quarter", rising from a negative balance of minus eight per cent to a positive 38 per cent.

This is the highest since the Picon survey began in 1998. Confidence in general trade was also up nine per cent – the seventh successive positive quarter since the end of 1998.

The three main export markets are the USA, Germany and France.

"Overall, the news from manufacturers is positive," says Picon’s Mark Oakes. "You can’t write off seven successive quarters in which optimists outnumber pessimists; and the strong rise in export confidence shows that, notwithstanding the strong pound, manufacturers are learning to live with it and hope to thrive this year."